Spreading global awareness about Sensory Processing Disorder

STAR Institute for Sensory Processing Disorder

October is Sensory Awareness Month, and we’re already focusing on next month because we want to help spread global awareness about this disorder.

On Oct. 6-7, our partners at the STAR Institute for Sensory Processing Disorder will host their 20th Annual International 3S Symposium in Denver, Colo. The Symposium will highlight 20 years of research accomplishments with though-provoking research and strategy presentations by clinical experts.

The Symposium is great for any individuals–occupational or physical therapists, special education teachers, early intervention specialists, parents and more–seeking a better understanding of Sensory Processing Disorder. And in addition to the two-day Symposium, the STAR Institute is hosting a pre-symposium workshop for parents focused on relationships and SPD across the lifespan.

Learn more and register for the 3S Symposium and pre-symposium workshop here. And watch our short video below to learn more about the history of the STAR Institute.

How playground spinners help develop kids’ senses

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OmniSpin® spinner

What are your kids’ favorite playground activities? Modern day merry-go-rounds and playground swings tend to attract droves of kids. So why are kids fascinated with swinging and spinning activities? Because it’s one of the core movements that engages the vestibular system. When a child spins on spinners like the OmniSpin® spinner or Saddle Spinners their brain receives signals to help control movement and balance. Even more, our playground spinners are not only fun, but they also deliver opportunities for social and cooperative play.

Children discover their world and how to be successful in it through sensory play. They develop their behaviors based on what they learn through their senses. And the more sensory-rich play experiences they have, the more they develop skills necessary to engage, change and impact the world around them. Learn more at playlsi.com, and tell us below what playground activity your kids like best.

Guest Blog: Exploration through music

In 2015, we collaborated with St. David’s Center in Minnetonka, Minn., to design an inclusive playground complete with an area dedicated to the new Rhapsody™ Outdoor Musical Instruments. Today, we’re happy to have Jackie Hanson, assistant teacher and children’s group piano instructor, as our guest blogger discussing how the music play equipment is helping students learn.

StDavidsMusic04

In the distance I hear a “Bang! Bang!” and a “Ding, Dong, Brrring” sounding out in mismatched pitches and uneven rhythms. I turn my head to see grins lighting up small faces and bodies in motion as children swing their arms back and forth, hitting the drums as hard as they can. One child tilts his head at the base of the hollow metal tubes of the Grandioso™ Chimes as another bounces the mallets off the bars, creating sounds of different pitch and timbre. What some might see as an annoyance or an incorrect attempt at playing music, I see as the purest form of artistic enjoyment and cognitive exploration.

St. David’s Center for Child & Family Development has been fortunate enough to install a brand new all-inclusive playground, which includes a new area filled with the Rhapsody Outdoor Musical Instruments ready and waiting for creative discovery. Music is an art form that humans were creating before the dawn of the written language. Therefore, it can be reasoned that it is one of the most natural ways in which a developing child can learn. The musical instruments at St. David’s Center including the Chimes, Vivo™ and Animato™ Metallophones, and three drums create the opportunity for children to foster fine and gross motor abilities, observe and explore scientific relationships, nurture creative imagination, and grow social interaction skills in a joyous, engaging and natural way.

When a child is playing a drum, fine and gross motor abilities are being developed. In the repeated motion of lifting each arm to hit the drum, gross motor strength is being built. Control is being developed in all the muscles of the arm as the child has to aim his/her hand toward the center of the drum, rather than letting it fall randomly on any area of the drum. Finally, the core is in constant use because it is being used to stabilize the body while the arms move quickly and the lower body stays still.

Scientific exploration is another wonderful educational opportunity these musical instruments can create. Once, a boy slammed the drum with all his force while another rested his cheek on the drum head feeling the vibrations. Another time, a little girl brought me over to tell me something to the effect of, “Look… this big one makes this really scary sound…” when pointing to the pipes of the wind chimes. Most recently, two friends were hitting the Grandioso Chimes as hard as they could and counting how long the sounds lasted. These are just a few examples of the observed scientific exploration, which are the building blocks of more complex discoveries in the future.

Music also fosters creative imagination and growth. While it’s easy to get stuck in the mindset of using an instrument for its “defined” use we forget that music is meant to be creative and a gateway for new ideas. While on the playground, I have seen children hitting the drums with sticks instead of their hands, riding the drums like horses, knocking on the Chimes pretending it’s a doorbell and using their fingers to try to play. Not all of these uses create music. But the children are using the Rhapsody Outdoor Musical Instruments to think outside of the box. They are not only fostering creative ideas for ways in which to play music, but also in how to use the musical instruments for completely different things.

These instruments have created countless moments of social interaction and growth. Music creates community; it is joyful and fun, and on more than one occasion I see two or three friends banging on the drums together with nothing but smiles and laughs on their faces. Playing the musical instruments together on the playground creates opportunities for social interaction skills. If two friends disagree on how to play, they learn how to resolve the conflict. Assuming the latter occurs, they then learn how to use each other to think of new creative ideas and work together. Having music on the playground creates one more outlet for these opportunities for social growth to occur.

StDavidsMusic03

Music is a unique tool in that it is an artistic activity that can extend its educational impact to numerous other areas of development. Furthermore, it is one of the most natural ways to feel and express emotion as well as create a joyful sense of community. It has been wonderful to see children growing and further developing their skills using the instruments on St. David’s Center’s new inclusive playground, and I can’t wait to see the new discoveries and experiences that will continue to occur in the future years.

ROCKing into Chicago!

ASLA 2015 | Chicago, Ill. | Nov. 6-9

The ASLA Annual Meeting & Expo kicks off tomorrow in Chicago, and we’re looking forward to connecting with everyone. If you’re attending, join us for the following events:

  1. Opening General Session. We’re excited to sponsor speakers from the PBS series, “10 Parks That Changed America.” Join us at Saturday, Nov. 7, at 8 a.m. CST for a lively discussion.
  2. Exhibit Hall. Do you wanna ROCK? Then visit us in booth #1421 on Saturday and Sunday as we rock the playground!
  3. An Edible Landscape Celebration. Join us Saturday, Nov. 7, at 8 p.m. at the Chicago Illuminating Company for healthy, locally sourced and heirloom foods. Plus, there’s talk of a Blues Brothers tribute!
  4. Education Session. Join John McConkey and Dr. Lucy Jane Miller on Sunday, Nov. 8, at 11 a.m. in A11 to learn about Evidence-based Design: Sensory Play Gardens and Children with Developmental Disorders.

Why do my kids like playground spinners?

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NEW! TopsyTurny™ Spinner

Think back to your days spent on the playground. What were your favorite playground activities? For many of us here at Landscape Structures, our favorites were the Merry-Go-Round and playground swings. And today, if you spend any time at your local playground, you probably notice a number of kids that flock to these same types of components.

Saddle Spinner

Saddle Spinner

Why are some kids so fascinated with spinning activities? Because it’s one of the core movements that engages the vestibular system. When a child spins on spinners like the TopsyTurny™ or OmniSpin® spinners, their brain receives signals to help control movement and balance. Even more, our playground spinners provide fun and also present opportunities for kids to be more social and engage in cooperative play.

OmniSpin® spinner

OmniSpin® spinner

Children discover their world and how to be successful in it through sensory play. They develop their behaviors based on what they learn through their senses. And the more sensory-rich play experiences they have, the more the develop skills necessary to engage, change and impact the world around them. Learn more about sensory playgrounds at playlsi.com, and tell us below what playground activity your kids like best.

Planning for inclusion on World Autism Awareness Day

Today marks the eighth annual World Autism Awareness Day. This day brings autism organizations around the world together to help raise awareness about the disorder affecting nearly 1 in 68 children. Because of these stats and the fact that there are one in seven children in the U.S. living with a disability, we took a close look at public playground requirements for children with disabilities by conducting a survey of nearly 900 parents of children 12-years-old and younger.

Landscape Structures Inclusive Play survey

More than half (57 percent) of all parents asked about playground requirements for children with disabilities, mistakenly believe playgrounds are required to have elements designed for children with autism spectrum disorders, Down syndrome, and visual and hearing impairments. That means that people who think they’re designing an inclusive playground based upon ADA standards are really only designing to the minimum requirements and could be missing a huge need in their community.

Over the past few years, we’ve learned about a desire to include sensory play experiences and multigenerational opportunities for social interaction. Planners also want to make sure the community or school playground offers enough challenge for children who are typically developing as well so that there are opportunities for healthy interaction among children of all abilities. Our survey echoed that idea… nearly 75 percent of parents believe it is important that their children have an opportunity to play with a variety of children, including those with disabilities.

The Oodle® Swing encourages healthy interaction among children of all abilities.

Overall, when planning an inclusive playground, inclusion should be used as a guiding principal—a checkpoint that you continue to question, “How are we fulfilling this need?” Learn more about inclusive play at playlsi.com, and see more results from our Inclusive Play survey.

Help bring inclusive play to a Twin Cities community

Nearly 14 percent of American children have one or more special needs ranging from autism to cerebral palsy. Nationwide there’s a growing trend of communities, schools and organizations advocating for more inclusive playgrounds where kids of all abilities can play together. The Madison Claire Foundation is working diligently to raise funds to build Madison’s Place, the first all-inclusive and accessible playground in Woodbury, Minn.

Madison Claire Foundation

They now have a chance to secure new funding through the “All-Star Fans Choose” grant. The $500,000 grant is supported by Major League Baseball, the Minnesota Twins, the Twins Community Fund and the Pohlad Family Foundation. Even better, you can vote for the Madison Claire Foundation and help increase their chance to win! Fans can vote once per day from now through Thursday, July 11, and the winner will be announced during MLB All-Star Week.

Learn more about Madison’s Place and the Madison Claire Foundation.