Parents announce ‘Inclusive Playground Day’, an awareness movement to break the ice for children of all abilities
As Autism Awareness Month kicks off once again, one Rhode Island family is on a mission to make the local playground a more accepting place for children of all abilities. Inspired by their son, who is on the autism spectrum and loves playgrounds, the family wants to promote awareness around making the playground a little bit more understanding and welcoming.
“Playground equipment that accommodates children who are disabled is the first step. But playgrounds are about far more than just the equipment: they are about the socialization that happens there,” comments mom Hannah, a marketing professional. “It’s no secret: kids of all abilities just don’t get enough opportunities to interact today. So many programs for typically developing kids and for their disabled peers are exclusive to one group or the other: it’s a fact that children with disabilities today are, in so many ways, not mainstreamed.”
“Our son loves the playground more than anything so we’re there all the time, however: many of the children we meet simply don’t know what to do when he arrives. Chances are, they’ve never met anyone like him before -- so when he stims with his hands or makes vocalizations, it could be both interesting and maybe scary because it’s new and unexpected,” weighs in dad Mike, an educator. “We often see parents choose to leave the playground with their children rather then have them engage with our son -- maybe because there is fear of saying or doing the wrong thing. With our campaign, we just want to break the ice a little. Inclusive Playground Day is saying ‘hey, it’s ok to be interested, it’s ok to ask questions, it’s ok to say hello, it’s ok to feel out of your element’. We’re all only human so let’s all try to bridge the gap, make some friends and...why not: make some social change happen.”
These two parents on a mission have already set the date for the inaugural Inclusive Playground Day: September 21, 2019. “Right now this is just an idea for an unofficial day to raise awareness that the playground can be a more welcoming place through awareness of, and then acceptance of, peers with disabilities -- both their differences and their similarities,” Hannah adds. “That being said, we hope it can really gain steam.”
To learn more about the movement, or to save the date, visit www.inclusiveplaygroundday.org