Playing together

Many children with special needs have difficulty adjusting to unstructured time, such as time on the playground. But after reading the Together We Play™ essays and speaking with parents and caregivers of these children, we know that the playground is an important place for children to be welcomed.

I recently came across a blog, Thin Places—Faith, Family and Disability, that discussed this topic. The author has a daughter, Penny, with Down syndrome. Penny started kindergarten this year and really enjoys it, but she sometimes has trouble sitting still and using her words. Penny’s teacher, however, is working closely with the author to ensure that Penny has friends.

“On Monday, though, Penny’s teacher took it to a new level. ‘The hardest time for Penny is on the playground,’ she said. ‘I think it’s because it’s such an unstructured time.’ So she’s decided to create a game time for Penny and a smaller group of friends. Usually the teacher would use that time to prepare for the second half of the day. But instead, she’s outside, making sure there’s a place for our daughter.

I spoke with a friend last night who has a daughter with Down syndrome who is also in elementary school. My friend was in tears because some kids had yelled at her daughter on the playground: ‘You don’t belong here!’ We talked for a long time about the difficulties of being a child with special needs, and the difficulty of being a parent of a child with special needs. She talked about the purpose of inclusive education, and she said, ‘I know that for my daughter to fit in means putting a square peg in a round hole. But I thought that inclusion was intended to make that round hole bigger.’ My daughter will not become a circle, but I’m grateful that the circle is becoming large enough for our daughter to fit in.”

Inclusive education is exactly what Shane’s Inspiration’s programming is all about. Their playground programming helps break down the barriers of bias toward children with disabilities through education. Check out what Shane’s Inspiration might be able to offer to your community.

Play for Life

The 2011 Play for Life Symposium, held Sept. 22-23, in Minneapolis, attracted park and recreation professionals, landscape architects, individuals working for nonprofit organizations and many more.

Prior to the two-day Symposium, we hosted a small group of attendees at Landscape Structures’ headquarters. They learned about the history of Landscape Structures before taking a tour through our manufacturing facility, and then were able to go on playground visits around Delano. That evening, we hosted a social and gave them an opportunity to network and meet Symposium speakers.

The Symposium kicked off on Thursday, Sept. 22. Day one of the event focused on the many dimensions of inclusive play including traveling with a disability, music, inclusive playground design and playground programming. In addition to valuable classroom time, the attendees were given ample time to network and share ideas with their peers.

Day two of the Symposium concentrated on inclusive play and the natural outdoors. Attendees heard from Bethe Almeras, Head Start Body Start; Carol A. Krawczyk, ASLA; and Hedda Sharapan, The Fred Rogers Company. Each of the day’s speakers discussed play in the outdoors, engagement in any environment and how it affects our lives as grownups. With more interaction among attendees, this was a great way to close the third annual Symposium.

Have you met Norm?

I am Norm. You are Norm. Your neighbor is Norm. According to I am Norm, a campaign designed by young people to promote the acceptance, respect and inclusion of youth with disabilities, Norm is everyone. And everyone has at least one thing in common: that we’re all different.

In January 2010, 20 young people from across the country–with and without disabilities–came together in Washington, D.C. to create the I am Norm campaign. All of the young people shared a goal of raising awareness about inclusion and promoting inclusive practices in schools and communities. Learn more about the creation of I am Norm by watching the video below.

Help educate your community and local schools about the importance of inclusion. One way to do that is to promote the I am Norm campaign. Share their website and videos on your social media sites, blogs, etc. Learn more about I am Norm at iamnorm.org.