Playgrounds ought to be inclusive of everyone, regardless of ability. Beyond simply providing a means for physical accessibility to all, the principle of inclusion goes further in creating a space that can be fully utilized by all. At Heritage Village Park, we desire to emphasize the friendship building and social skills of everyone who plays here, especially those who have special needs.
All children have their own profiles of strengths and abilities. While some are working hard on academic skills or learning to play an instrument, others are working hard on communication (e.g., learning how to have a back-and-forth conversation) and learning how to play with others (i.e., play pretend and maintain friendships). These two core features, social communication and reciprocal interaction, are difficult for kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder. In Minnesota, 1 in 42 school-aged children have a diagnosis of autism; therefore, it is important now more than ever to learn how to be an ambassador for friendship and acceptance of kids of all abilities. What do kids with special needs, such as autism, want? To be included and accepted, just like everyone else.
Maybe it's uncomfortable, but please don't ignore or avoid anyone who may be "different".
Below are a few tips to keep in mind that a friend with autism may want you to know. By putting these tips into practice, we are confident that everyone can be more understanding and inclusive.
"Inclusive playgrounds allow individuals of various abilities (caregivers and children alike) to grow and play in an environment that meets their needs. We love the idea of an inclusive playground as it lets all kids move, explore, and have fun with others!"
-Therapy OPS, Inver Grove Heights
"Having an inclusion playground would mean kids are exposed to more diversity and abilities at an earlier age, allowing children a better understanding of the world and environment around them. Setting all children up to succeed."
-Heidi Allard, Speech and Language Pathologist
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