Playgrounds: Modify Play for Special Needs
One thing I never want to take away from Rory is being a wild and crazy toddler. I want her to be adventurous: run around, get dirty, be crazy, and have fun like most other toddlers her age. The only problem is the 6 centimeter lift on her shoe sometimes makes things difficult for her (and for me).
Although Rory does not let the shoe hold her back, it causes me reticent. The shoe is so tall that it often causes falls, bruises, scrapes, bumps, and other catastrophes. I find my stomach sinking in my belly every time I see her take off in a sprint or jump around the house. The realization has set in that I can’t keep her in my own little bubble for the rest of my life. Rather than accept the bumps and bruises I have found myself modifying every day activities so that she can still enjoy herself, but just a bit safer.
Playgrounds are a big part of our weekly, if not daily, routine. Rory loves them and there is no keeping her from climbing up and down and jumping all around the equipment. When she was younger we would just hold hands the whole time on the playground, I would do everything she did, but now that she is getting older she wants to be independent and do things on her own. I have to find ways that allow her to feel independent but also still protect her from injury.
How to Modify Play for Special Needs Children
Playground Obstacle #1
Many of the new playgrounds have wonderful astroturf that is almost bouncy when you walk on it- which is really great to have when you have a sprinting toddler! Most of the older parks have wood chips, sand or sticks which is really hard for her to walk in. Whenever we encounter rough playground terrains I make sure that I walk everywhere with Rory so that if she does fall, I am right there to catch her.
With Rory's new independent stage, some days she doesn't want to hold hands and walk. To avoid the upcoming fall, I will pretend to walk race her or baby step race her. This way she isn't running, she feels like she is still independent, and mommy is still within reach to catch her falling beauty and avoid injury.
Playground Obstacle #2
When she first attempted going down a slide, we quickly learned that her shoe created an issue. The shoe often will catch on the slide and she will fall forward hitting her head on the slide. Because of this, we have taught her to go down the slide on her tummy, just a little modification, but helps minimize injury.
Minimize injury is the key phrase.
Now that Rory is older, she notices older children going down slides in the sitting position, and in turn, wants to do so herself. She attempted this the other day and fell, hard. Although I am always waiting for her at the bottom of the slide, this was a big slide, and it left a big welt on her head. So now we opt for playgrounds with small slides to mitigate seated slide slip-ups. Many playgrounds we go to have two slides together so that Rory and I can go down the slides at the same time, that way if she falls I am right next to her to get her!
Playground Obstacle #3
Climbing is another issue we have. Many of the playgrounds have little square holes cut out that kids can climb up to get to the big playground equipment. These don’t seem to work well with the shoes. Rory's shoes are just too big to fit in them.
Rory is so determined to go up the obstacles she will do it with or without her shoe. When she does attempt to go up these, I stay behind and cheer for her. Little does she know my hands are right underneath that little body and often times my hand will act as a hole for her foot to push off of.
In a nut shell, playgrounds are hard for us, but Rory loves them. For all you special needs mothers out there, try to find ways to give your child independence while still maintaining peace of mind.
For more posts on support and awareness for moms and siblings of special needs children, please take a moment to look at these other Quirky Momma posts:
Do you have any “boundless” playgrounds near you? We have a few here in TN and they are made to be especially sensitive to special needs kids. All of my kids love them, but they are especially great for my autistic son. They have tons of features that help all sorts of special needs issues.
I love the supports you are giving her. It is fabulous to hear the ability you see in her!
My son has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair for mobility. We look for playgrounds with large solid surfaces and paved paths. We also search for places with swings that have harnesses. It’s challenging, but every child should have the chance to play at a playground! 🙂