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Kids With Cerebral Palsy Need Recreational Activities For Their Physical & Emotional Health

Anyone can remember their childhood days and the days spent at their local playground and relate to the need to make parks safe and accessible today. Many people take for granted how accessible playgrounds may have been when they were children and forget that the rise in the number of birth defects occurring in children recently means that many children are now left out.

Standard playground equipment is designed for able bodied children who can move around easily and have a grasp on gross motor skills.  Until recently however, there was no law requiring playgrounds to be accessible for all children.

How Recreation Can Make a Positive Impact on the Lives of Children with Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy affects muscles and motor function, making it harder for children with the disorder to control their movements and coordination. The condition will not get worse over time because the damage is already done, so it is important to help children with cerebral palsy use their muscles to their best of their ability. Allowing them to do so will help them develop and expand their physical and mental capabilities.

Recreation does not only provide physical benefit, but is also an important facet of emotional well-being. Children with cerebral palsy want to be able to play and interact with others just as any other child does. The concept known as recreational therapy strives to include children with disabilities rather than exclude them or separate them.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has required that new playgrounds must incorporate some accessibility components so that disabled children can be included in recreational activities. The ADA requires new playgrounds to include equipment that children with disabilities can access with ease. This also includes alterations to existing playgrounds —if a playground is being remodeled, new equipment would need to be added that addressed the needs of the disabled.

Recreation in the Community

McCarthy Park is one of 1,000 new playgrounds in Chicago, but the new park, located in Tinley Park, a suburb of Chicago; has gone above and beyond the requirements set by the ADA. The inspiration to make the playground fully accessible for children with disabilities came from a mother who had voiced the concern at a park meeting that her child could not access the park because of the mulch that surrounded it.

When building the playground, the park district held meetings to discuss ideas and get feedback from the families in the community. They also sought the advice of the South Suburban Special Recreation Association — an organization that promotes the quality of life in individuals of all abilities. Janet Porter, the executive Director of SSSRA stated that it was important to consider the needs of individuals with disabilities when designing anything.

Features of McCarthy Park

The park is brightly colored with the blue, red and yellow equipment, but the park offers much more to children than visual stimulus. The equipment is made with a rubberized surface and metal ramps for the children to use safely. Ramps at each slide in a system of slides make it easy for children in wheelchairs to access and navigate the park. Adult-sized swings were also incorporated at the request of Jerry Cain, a father of an 18 year old with cerebral palsy.

The playground also has drums and sensory panels with marbles for children to experiment with. A boat seating area that rocks back and forth is easily accessible by wheelchairs. A color wheel is also included to stimulate disabled children’s visual sense. These features make it ideal for children with all abilities to enjoy and engage in activity.

Children with cerebral palsy deserve to live with as much dignity as possible and the ability to have fun and enjoy simple things like playing on a playground will help children with cerebral palsy and other birth defects feel included in their communities. Keeping children stimulated will improve their motor function and the ability to interact with their surroundings.


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