Celebrating the All Stars of the Miracle League

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Last weekend, the Miracle League, an organization whose mission is to provide opportunities for children with mental and/or physical challenges to play baseball, hosted its Inaugural Miracle League All-Star Celebration. Representatives from 26 states and a Canadian province made their way to Findlay, Ohio, for the event.

On Saturday, Sept. 15, 90 Miracle League players participated in four baseball games at the Blanchard Valley Health System Miracle Park. The celebration showcased the success and impact that the Miracle League has on children and families of all abilities. Miracle Leagues across the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Australia are creating environments that encourage teamwork, competition and inclusion.

Read more about the inaugural event here.

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Celebrating Sensory Awareness Month

National Sensory Awareness Month | October 2015

October is National Sensory Awareness Month… a time for us to help spread awareness of sensory processing disorder (SPD). SPD, which affects both children and adults, is a condition that exists when sensory signals don’t get organized into appropriate responses. The causes of SPD are among the subjects that researchers at the SPD Foundation have been studying, and treatment often includes natural setting therapy like at home, school or the playground.

The benefits of sensory-stimulating playground activities—those that engage all their senses—affect children of all abilities. The more they engage all of their senses, the better they make sense of the world around them and their relationship to it. See our infographic below of five ways that children benefit from sensory play.

5 Key Benefits of Sensory Play | Landscape Structures Inc.

A unique perspective

The City of Lewiston, Maine, is the region five winner of the Together We Play™ essay contest. The vision for this community’s inclusive playground comes from a unique perspective–providing a place where children can not only play with their friends, but also with their parents or guardians. Read below to learn more about their vision for inclusion on the playground.

“As parents of a 4-year-old, they want quality play time with her. Ben has been a quadriplegic since December 2007 and finding ways to play together has been difficult.

They desire a playground where children and adults with disabilities feel welcome–a centralized play area versus being separated from others. Inclusiveness, they say, would affirm that others are willing to share time/space with them. Ben believes the playground would be a fresh, unbiased experience where play, socialization and education would be common ground for a new adventure!”

Where do you get your inspiration?

The region 4 winner of the Together We Play™ essay contest is Kate’s Kause in Elmira, Ontario. Kate’s Kause is a 100 percent charitable organization committed to Angelman Syndrome awareness and fundraising for inclusive community projects. Read the excerpt below to learn where Kate’s mom, Kelly, gets her inspiration.

“My inspiration comes from ourColor Splash Panel™ beautiful 2-year-old daughter, Kate. Kate was diagnosed with Angelman Syndrome (AS) in 2010. AS is a traumatic diagnosis: those afflicted suffer from severe physical and intellectual disabilities, have poor verbal skills, sleep disorders, sensory sensitivities and require full support throughout their lives. To help bolster our spirits, we have created an organization named for Kate–Kate’s Kause–which we hope will help create the necessary change that will benefit all children. As Kate’s mom, I have the same dreams and hopes for Kate that any parent has: I want her to be happy, be surrounded by people who love her and be included in the world. One way of helping us fulfill our dream of full inclusion for Kate is through helping her do what children do best: play.”

Children are our inspiration

The City of Gig Harbor, Wash., is the region one winner of the Together We Play™ essay contest. Their essay explains their inspiration behind submitting an essay–providing a place where all of their children can play together. Read the excerpt below to truly understand what inspired these moms.

“Our children are our inspiration. We are a group of mothers who have bonded together over the past 10 years–working hard to make our community a better place for our special needs children and for those to come in the future. In this case, we are members of the ‘Committee for an Inclusive Playground in the City of Gig Harbor.’ Each of us has a unique story–traumatic and often sad–and our children have many different diagnoses including muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, autism, developmental delays, chromosome abnormalities and epilepsy. Yet, each family also has a typically developing child, and that has inspired us to create an inclusive playground.”

Children of all abilities should play together on the playground.

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.