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!