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?

Topsy-Blog

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.

Supporting inclusive play

Last week, we were honored at the Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) Foundation’s 1st Annual Banquet of Champions. Held at the Inverness Hotel and Conference Center in Englewood, Colo., the event brought together people to help raise funds for research towards understanding behavioral and brain differences in children with SPD. Additionally, the Foundation celebrated individuals and organizations that have supported the SPD Foundation.

Proud to be recognized by the SPD Foundation for our commitment to inclusive play.

We were presented the Champion of Partnership award for partnering with the SPD Foundation to bring “The World’s Best Sensory Playground” to the STAR Center. The inclusive and sensory-stimulating playground equipment is used as a therapy tool for kids receiving treatment at the STAR Center.

Dr. Miller created an inclusive playground with many sensory-rich activities at the STAR Center.

We’re proud to work with the SPD Foundation and support their research in sensory processing disorders, and honored by this recognition. Learn more about the SPD Foundation and the STAR Center, and go here to read more about our commitment to inclusive play.

Guest Blog: Designing a truly inclusive playground

In June, we awarded the Iola Kiwanis club in Iola, Kan., $25,000 in playground equipment as part of the Make a Difference Through Play contest. Since winning, they’ve been busy with plans, and we’re happy to share another update from Michael Ford, member of Iola Kiwanis and community resource officer for the Iola Police Department.

When our playground consultant from ATHCO, LLC visited with us to discuss the inclusive playground design, five representatives from the M.O.M.S. group were at the meeting along with the school’s physical therapist and a couple of Kiwanis members. We all paged through the Landscape Structures catalog—the moms focused on products that might specifically help their kids—and the rest of us picked out items that we thought we be fun for all kids.

The Marble Panel™, Xylofun Panel® and Bongo Panel all provide sensory-rich experiences for kids.

L to R: Marble Panel™, Xylofun Panel® and Bongo Panel

Some of the moms focused on including sensory panels because they figured that even though their children might not have a lot of muscle strength to climb or hang from overhead events, they can still participate and have fun. And I don’t know what kid isn’t going to enjoy beating on Bongo Drums or playing on a Xylophone, which is what some of the panels included. Another popular item was the Marble Panel™, which one mom whose child with vision problems picked out. The light shines through the marbles to engage kids’ sight, plus it offers a unique tactile experience.

As a parent of kids without special needs, I never thought about sensory items as part of the playground, but now I see that it’s very important. And it’s important for the development of all kids. That, to me, is how we’re providing a truly inclusive play space.

The Roller Table provides a unique sensory experience with its deep muscle pressure.

Roller Table™

While the moms focused on sensory-rich activities, the physical therapist thought more about what kids—with and without special needs—need for building strength. She chose climbers that would engage kids’ full bodies. And she thought the Roller Table™ would be great for kids that don’t have any lower body strength, as they can lie down and pull themselves through.

The design process has been very educational for us. The Cozy Dome®, which I just looked at as a fort or climber, can also be beneficial for children with autism to use as a “time-out” space if they get overstimulated. It was quite the learning experience to look at these playground products from a different point of view.

The Cozy Dome® offers kids a place to escape the hustle and bustle of a busy playground, take time by themselves or socialize together.

Cozy Dome®

After that first meeting, our playground consultant came back with a design that we all liked. The design is final; however, if we exceed our fundraising goal we’d love to add more inclusive playground pieces to the design.

Stay tuned for another update from Michael next month. He’ll talk more about the importance of inclusive play to the community of Iola.

The five key benefits of sensory play

Did you know that October is Sensory Awareness Month? It is, and on this last day of the month, we wanted to share the benefits that children of all abilities get from sensory play. Sensory play involves activities that help to stimulate and develop behaviors based on what a child sees, hears, touches, tastes and smells. It also involves how they move and position their bodies in space. The more they engage all seven senses, the better they make sense of the world around them and their relationship to it.

See below for our infographic of the five ways that children benefit from sensory play, and see a larger version at playlsi.com.

5 Key Benefits of Sensory Play | Landscape Structures Inc.

Guest Blog: Gaining community support for your playground project

In June, we awarded the Iola Kiwanis club in Iola, Kan., $25,000 in playground equipment as part of the Make a Difference Through Play contest. Since winning, they’ve been busy with plans, and we’re happy to share another update from Michael Ford, member of Iola Kiwanis and community resource officer for the Iola Police Department.

We started gaining support for our inclusive playground project during the Make a Difference Through Play contest. The contest took place on Facebook so we were able to easily spread the word through the Iola Kiwanis club Facebook page, various community pages and each of our personal pages. With family and friends spread far and wide, we literally had support coming from around the world.

When we entered the contest many people said, “What are the odds that little Iola, Kan., can win this contest?” But the power of social media showed that anything is possible. With our online outreach and word-of-mouth spreading through the community, we secured enough votes to get our project to the top of the list. After winning the contest and sharing our plans for the inclusive playground—including plans to have the project completed by April 2014—we were concerned that we would be confronted by naysayers, but we’ve had nothing but support.

Inclusive playgrounds mean more than just accessible.

Top: OmniSpin® spinner; Middle Left: Oodle® Swing; Middle Right: Cozy Dome®; Bottom: Sensory Play Center®

To help increase community involvement, we included the M.O.M.S. group and physical therapist from school to help our Kiwanis club create a truly inclusive playground design. While I was thinking wheelchair accessibility, they helped educate our group on the need for sensory play panels, playground spinners and swings, as well as quiet areas where kids with autism or sensory processing disorders can take a “time out” if necessary.

While we move forward finalizing the design, we’re analyzing our site and creating an overall blueprint of the project. We’re also beginning to work more closely with the Iola Parks Department as they will be heavily involved with the installation and maintenance of the playground.

Stay tuned for another update from Michael next month. He’ll talk more in depth about designing an inclusive playground.

Meet the professional: Dr. Lucy Jane Miller

Dr. Lucy Jane Miller, founder of the SPD Foundation and STAR CenterWe are so honored to work with clients around the world, and we’re constantly learning about their fun and unique projects, obstacles they’ve faced and the innovative solutions they’ve created to overcome challenges. That’s why we’ve created this new feature that spotlights professionals. This week, meet Dr. Lucy Jane Miller, founder of the Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) Foundation and the STAR Center. Below, you’ll learn how she came to begin her career, and what lead her to start the SPD Foundation.

When I was 16-years-old, I stopped seeing things the way other people do. Literally.

Without contact lenses in my eyes, objects were growing blurrier and blurrier. With contacts in, I could see but my eyes ached until, after several hours, I could hardly bear the pain. Only a few months earlier, I’d been thinking about where to go to college, what to do for the summer and all the other things typical 16-year-old girls think about. Then this one big sensory piece started to fail—my sense of sight—and my whole world shifted. My parents took me to a local ophthalmologist but he brushed aside my complaints. “There’s nothing the matter with her eyes,” he told us. “It’s all in her head.”

I was in college before we solved the mystery of my fading vision. By then, wearing contact lenses for more than a few minutes had become agony and even enormous shapes were fuzzy without them. It was my alarmed freshman roommate who insisted I see a doctor at the school clinic, triggering a series of referrals that finally brought answers and help. I was diagnosed with advanced kerateconus, a disease that distorts the corneas and—without treatment—eventually, leads to blindness.

The diagnosis was grave but it also came as a relief. My vision problems weren’t all in my head after all! The symptoms were real and they had a name. I finally knew what I was fighting and could make a plan for fighting it.

The year was 1971 and the cure for the disease was corneal transplants in both eyes, a procedure only two doctors in the U.S. were qualified to perform. I went on a waiting list for donor corneas, doubling up on classes so I could finish college before my surgery, learning Braille and practicing with a white cane, just in case the cure didn’t work and I lost what was left of my eyesight. A few weeks before graduation, I reached the top of the list for my first transplant. During the two-hour surgery, the old bad right cornea was removed and a new donated cornea was stitched to my eyeball with 16 sutures that would jab my eye and eyelid like teensy relentless needles for the three months after surgery when both my eyes had to be patched.

The operation was a total success, but I felt lost in my carefully maintained darkness. The endless stream of doctors, fellows, residents and medical students who gazed admiringly at my eye murmured, “beautiful, beautiful,” but I didn’t feel beautiful at all. I couldn’t see. I made a mess when I tried to eat. I couldn’t perform basic personal hygiene tasks and, after a lifetime seeing people when I talked, it didn’t feel like communication when I talked in the dark. What’s more, the admiring medical people who visited seemed to care only about my beautiful new eye. I felt reduced to a single sensory organ—an eyeball.

Then a new person entered my life. She was a young occupational therapy student doing her internship and she had been assigned to teach me how to feed, dress and take care of myself. She was about my age and showed no interest in my eyeball at all. Instead, she talked to me, Lucy Jane Miller, and listened to what I said. She always wanted to know how I—not my eye—was doing and she told me little things about her life so we had a real relationship even though I couldn’t see her. I silently called her “Angel” and imagined her with long blonde hair, blue eyes, a perfect Olympian body, and a halo, of course. I learned to identify her footsteps and detect her scent so I could say, “Hi, Angel!” just as she came into my room.

Then came the day when Angel chanced into the room when my patches were being changed and I finally glimpsed my rescuer with my eyes as well as with my other senses. The sight astonished me. Angel was a polio survivor. Half her face and body had been paralyzed and left sagging by the disease. In my darkness, Angel was beautiful because I could only “see” the beauty that was inside.

In the fog of recuperation, my future came into focus. While still in my eye patches, I applied to occupational therapy school. Two days after the last stitches were removed following my second transplant, I started graduate school.

One of the first books I read with my new good eyes was the work of a pioneering occupational therapist and neuroscientist named A. Jean Ayres. In Sensory Integration and Learning Disabilities, Dr. Ayres wrote in detail about the behavioral, social and emotional issues that arise when a child’s sensory foundation is not firmly established early in life. She stressed the importance of early diagnosis of sensory disorders and described in detail how occupational therapy (OT) could and was helping children. Fresh as I was from my own darkness, Dr. Ayres’ words resonated instantly.

Demoralized and disabled by the long-term repercussions of a doctor’s proclamation that my symptoms were all in my head, I knew how critical accurate and early diagnosis was. Barely out of my teens, I had known the humiliation of being unable to perform normal, everyday routines like other people my age. Grateful for Angel’s care, I was a firm believer in how dramatically OT could address sensory issues and improve a person’s life. Before first semester ended, I decided to spend my life promoting the understanding, accurate diagnosis and effective treatment of the sensory-based disorders that Dr. Ayres described.

From Sensational Kids: Hope and Help for Children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)

Learn more about Dr. Miller and the research, education and treatment she provides to help individuals struggling with SPD. Then read about our partnership with the SPD Foundation and the STAR Center, including its sensory playground.

Dr. Miller created an inclusive playground with many sensory-rich activities at the STAR Center.

Dr. Miller created an inclusive playground with many sensory-rich activities at the STAR Center.

Bringing new, rolling shapes to the playground

We are excited to showcase one of our newest playground designs—the Hillscape Adventure! The treaded boardwalk-like climber mimics a hillside landscape and fits naturally into surrounding environments. This design can be ordered as is, customized to fit your site or budget needs, or use it as a starting point and create a design that’s completely unique.

The Hillscape Adventures offers a rolling design and climbing challenge for kids ages 5 to 12.

The Hillscape Adventure offers a never-before-seen shape in playground design. Its wavy form and wood-grain textured boards are eye-catching to park visitors, and delivers a truly innovative play experience for kids ages 5 to 12. In addition to providing a unique climbing challenge, kids’ tactile, visual, proprioceptive and vestibular senses are engaged as they play. Even more, the Hillscape Adventure encourages imaginative, unscripted play. This flowing climber is available as a component within a playground structure or can be installed as a freestanding playground climber to accommodate a variety of space and budget requirements.

Learn more about the Hillscape Adventure and all of our design capabilities, then contact your local playground consultant to get started on your next playground design.