Required – a good local playground


There is a beautiful park not far from where I live.  It is nicely landscaped with formal beds full of seasonal bedding plants, specimen trees and neatly mowed grassy areas.  Through it winds a path that connects the outskirts of town to the Norman church (where I got married) and the shopping centre beyond.  It is a lovely walk, only a mile long, that takes walkers and cyclists past the duck pond and its large population of noisy geese, to the mini nature reserve and its tempting coffee house and on to the municipal tennis courts and the children’s play area.  It’s an extensive area with plenty of space for family picnics, ball games, kissing couples and dog walkers without fear of anyone intruding your space!

It sounds like the perfect place to while away endless summer days doesn’t it, except there’s a problem – the children’s play area.  It simply does not provide enough play equipment for the older children and young teenagers or for those with disabilities.  Yes there is the usual slide, swing and basic climbing frame and now an additional log swing thanks to a  recent makeover but that’s it which I find rather pathetic for a park of this grandeur. 

And that leaves me with some logistical difficulties because whilst my youngest daughter is happy enough with the swings and the slide, my son isn’t.  To satisfy him and his sister, we have to drive further afield to find playgrounds that have the zip wires, the tyre swings and the giant sandpit that they both adore.  But the problem with this is that longer journeys can be difficult for us particularly if one of  our children is having a spell of challenging behaviour or severe anxiety which can make travelling impossible.  And in any case, why should I travel so far when I have a lovely park on my doorstep?  Sometimes I just want to be able to nip down to the local park with my children without the hassle of preparing and organising a trip further  afield. 

It so frustrates me because my children are not able to access the local play schemes that spring up during the school holidays.  Even when these summer schemes claim to be disability friendly they are not autistic friendly and my children, gripped by social fear as well as anxiety over changes in their routine, refuse  to attend even with me by their side.  Often we remain house-bound.  So I need my local park; a place that my children have grown used to over the years and where they feel reasonably comfortable.  It gives us a chance to escape the house and get some fresh air and exercise as well as spending precious time together.  

But without a good playground to entice my son, I am in the middle of the competing demands of two very different autistic children – a son who refuses to go to our local park because its “boring” and a daughter who enjoys it there.  Believe you me, when my autistic son refuses to go somewhere he is very resistant and difficult to coax away from the x-box or computer.  As I can’t leave my son alone at home, I’m now racking my brain to think of ways to motivate my son to come to the park as well as finding other things we can all do together during the summer holidays!  Its quite a challenge for a family with autistic children and with no decent play area in our local park, there isn’t much to fall back on either!

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13 Responses to Required – a good local playground

  1. Just want to say your article is as astonishing. The clarity to your publish is just cool and i could assume you are an expert in this subject. Fine together with your permission let me to seize your feed to stay updated with drawing close post. Thank you 1,000,000 and please keep up the enjoyable work.

  2. Jazzygal says:

    That’s such a pity. A good playground is a neccessity! It provides great OT too. I remember beibg so thrilled when a really good one opened up a 10 minute car ride away from us and it really did provide good OT. What about your local Residents Association or Council? Any plans in place… or anyone interested in requesting a n upgraded playground? Small one sprung up in most places here in Dublin over the last few years. Never any toilet facilities though…

    xx Jazzy

    • Aspie in the family says:

      I have mentiond the playground issues to senior officials in the council. However, it seemed they were prioritising strategies to encourage parents of disabled children to return to work so resources are being put into providing child care, holiday schemes. They were also, it seemed, prioritising younger children with disabilities. And so the issues of the playgrounds have just been pushed aside; I dont think they realise how important they are. So frustrating.

  3. Blue Sky says:

    I have a similar problem of competing needs – aspie boy wants to stay in and Smiley wants to go out, and her favourite leisure activity is shopping which he hates! I used to take them both to playgrounds, but like that we have to go further now to access ones that are exciting enough for the pre-teens, and then my problem is now how to manage feeding/toileting Smiley or we have to make it there and back in 3-4 hours. I try not to remember the days when I used to be able to squash her into a standard baby swing or lift her onto the slide….and how much she loved it!

    • Aspie in the family says:

      Thanks for commenting. You’ve raised another issue with regards to toilet provision. I know of one beautiful park in my area with loads of space for everyone and no public toilets at all. When my children were younger it was easier because they could ‘go’ behind a bush if it was really desperate but now they are older its just not acceptable to do this. I don’t know how some families get on in places like this. I reckon they must avoid going which is such as shame because spaces like this should be enjoyed by everyone.

  4. jontybabe says:

    Its very frustrating. I know my daughter loves the park but she won’t go because of ‘all the baby toys’. At 5ft 5 she feels silly sitting on tiny swings. And, yes she gets the disapproving looks from other mums. So do I actually, as I sit there reading my book and ‘looking after’ this huge child! One mother did question why she was there and I explained she was autistic and had a learning disability and was only functioning at half her chronologcial age. Her response , ‘she doesn’t look autistic’!!!! Is there a look now? Very frustrating.

    • Aspie in the family says:

      I know the frustration. Whilst my son hates our local park because its boring, he loves this park we go to which is miles away. It has a massive sand pit, diggers and water play which my son absolutely loves (as does my daughter) but it is aimed at the younger children. Im not going to stop him playing in it because he loves it so much but you see the rude looks he gets from other parents. Some parents have even moved him on which is a shame because he is never any bother. In fact it is really lovely to see different ages mixing and playing together. I think the problem is that my son is also big for his age and many people probably assume that he is too old for this play and what they probably don’t realise is that he is emotionally very immature.

  5. Lizbeth says:

    Yeah, it’s hard. Our park is great for the younger set but as they get older they get into the stream and places they shouldn’t. I wind up bringing his bike and balls to keep him occupied but honestly its easier sometimes if we just play in the back yard. Sigh.

    • Aspie in the family says:

      It does feel easier to just stay at home but then my son ends up glued on the computer and/or x-box and I feel bad that my youngest daughter is missing out. Its hard to please them all.

  6. Steph says:

    Feel for you on this too – I know how hard it is to get my ASD 4 year old out of the house… she has about 3 places she is happy to go to, and therwise you just have to catch her on a good day! Bigger, more inclusive playgrounds with a good variety of playthings would be nice, but sadly very few and far between.

    • Aspie in the family says:

      I know what you mean about them having a ‘good day’. My daughter can be very unpredictable; some days we can go somewhere, other days she refuses to go anywhere and hides in her bedroom! Its very frustrating at times.

  7. Galina V says:

    Know exactly what you mean. Our town has no facilities for older children with special needs. Our son is 9 years old, and though my husband takes him to the local playgrounds, they are not suitable for older children. He still loves the swings, but the other parents look with disapproval at the big boy – they think he should not be there. Now with the bloody long summer holidays we have the problem of keeping a very active boy entertained.

    • Aspie in the family says:

      We’ve had that too – the disapproving glances from other parents. I’ve learnt to ignore it now but it annoys me when I see some parents intimidating or moving my son along so that they can hog it for their own children.

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