A Special Playground for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Elementary-aged children in the Upper Darby School District who need an autistic support classroom attend Primos Elementary. When 39-year-old Kelly Colvin of Drexel Hill registered her son at Primos for kindergarten in the spring of 2013, the school district encouraged Colvin and her husband to tour the autism spectrum disorder (ASD) program. The Colvins were impressed with the school’s staff, but underwhelmed with the playground. Kelly wanted to change that. “Play time for any child is very important,” says Colvin. “But even more so for children with ASD. Many suffer from sensory processing disorders, which can ultimately impact how they perform in the classroom.” Her son craves sensory inputs, such as deep pressure or swinging. “It can calm him so he can welcome learning,” she says.
That May, she met with the school’s superintendent to discuss her improve-the-playground idea. Almost three years later, and after $260,000 worth of fundraising, students at Primos have an outdoor playspace designed especially for them. An official opening is scheduled for the Autism Support Playground at Primos, April 18, at 861 Bunting Lane (April is Autism Awareness Month).
“Each item on the playground has a purpose,” says Colvin, who collaborated with a designer, teachers, occupational and physical therapists, and special needs staff. “The climbing and hanging apparatus helps children with poor core strength.” To improve vestibular input (movement and gravity), balance items, swings and swing-like apparatuses were added. There’s a music hut to foster social development and interaction.
The playground is open to everyone during non-school hours. Colvin added, “There is a fence around the playground. This was done in order to keep elopers safe, but the fence will not be locked.”
Teachers have told her that kids who didn’t want play are running outdoors for recess. Because of the special seat on the swing set, kids who never used a swing set can swing with classmates. “I learned of a boy with poor body strength who gravitated to the climbing apparatus his first time out,” says Colvin. “As his teacher watched nervously, he successfully climbed the wall – with the biggest smile on his face.”
To donate online, go to udfoundation.org.
Photo courtesy of Autistic Support Playground at Primos Facebook page.