LOVE EVERY ONE. PROMOTING AN ALL INCLUSIVE WORLD. SPREADING AWARENESS OF SPINAL MUSCULAR ATROPHY (SMA), FUNDING RESEARCH AND SUPPORTING CHILDREN AND FAMILIES AFFECTED BY CHILDHOOD DISEASES AND DISORDERS.
It’s more than a playground. It’s about you too.
Our childhood memories are flashes, still frames of moments that have accumulated over the years to help tell the story of who we are. For most, there are several of these moments that took place on a playground. It was so fun to go to a new playground and explore each piece of equipment. To master the difficult climb or to go down the tallest slide with no fear are moments we remember. It was also the place of a great deal of socialization as a child. From trips with family to recess and camp, playgrounds were the foundation of friendships and building childhood connections. Some of these friendships, when we are lucky, can even last a lifetime.
I want you to imagine something with me. Imagine your child was never able to play on a playground. Imagine that when he and his friends go out for recess, he watches. Imagine when his baby sister gets to swing for the first time he watches. Imagine the other children running by with sounds of laughter and joy too busy to notice your son sitting alone with his mom, again. Maybe he can even wheel around, or be amongst the other children, but he is not engaged with them. There is nothing for him to do here. Or it isn’t safe for him here or there is not a comforting place to escape here. There is nothing that meets your child’s needs. Would you feel angry? Or sad? Or disappointed? (You definitely feel tired!) This hurt, this pain and anger does not come from the fact that your son is not physically able to participate, because he is perfect. It comes because he is excluded yet again because of the way he was born, and a world that has left him behind.
Now imagine he enters a playground where he can roll everywhere he wants to go. This is great, but what lights up his eyes, and what makes your heart sing, is that this is a playground where he can play. He lays in the spinner and spins around faster and faster giggling and getting dizzy, watching his sister and dad spin with him. His body experiences sensations he has never felt before as he rolls along a rolling table slide. He swings with joy in his mom’s arms. Then he sees music pieces and wants to play.
As we head over, an energetic little girl about my son’s age comes running up to him. She asks a few questions about his medical equipment, if he can walk ect. And then immediately grabs his hand to help him play a chime. She shows him her favorite music instruments and asks what his are. She says, “I want to show you to the top!” (Meaning of the play structure). She leads the way up the ramp. At one point she says, “I’m going to take the shortcut!” She takes the more challenging, climbing route that runs alongside him as he goes up the ramp. He giggles with delight, watching her, rolling with her. They play with the toy panels along the route as they ascend. When they reach the top his new friend shouts about how high they are in the sky, and Leo smiles with delight.
How would you feel if that was your daughter? How will you feel when she stands up for the child being bullied in middle school? Or enters the workforce and befriends the co-worker that has socialization difficulties? All because of small moments and connections she made as a child.
This is inclusion. This is more than a playground. This is about you too. This is a place that shapes who we are. This is feeling like a kid. This is feeling like a part of life, and this is feeling understood and liked by others. It took this playful child about 2.5 seconds to see past my son’s medical equipment. She saw him, not a disability. She saw a new friend. And Leo, he felt included.
We need this. Everywhere needs this. You can help make this happen.
Inclusive Playground at
Saluda Shoals Park