Come One, Come All

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In these warm months, chances are you’re taking kids outside to
play group games or use playground equipment. Part of that means
considering the needs of children with special needs so you can
include them and keep them safe.

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Thanks to the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, playgrounds
are more accessible to children with disabilities. Even so, it’s a
good idea to check your play area for safety hazards, fences,
poisonous plants, proper shade, and emergency access for kids with
special needs. Here are other things to consider.

Physical Disabilities:
Ensure that your play area has
well-located ramps and accessible surfaces such as wood chips or
shredded rubber. A child who falls frequently may need to wear a
protective helmet.

Learning Disabilities: Take time to explain a
game carefully and demonstrate how to play. If needed, allow a
child extra time to take a turn. Use this as an opportunity to
teach other children patience.

Autism Spectrum Disorders: Be aware of sensory
issues with things such as excessive noise or heat. Children with
high pain tolerance may not know when the slide is too hot. Direct
a child who mouths objects to safer activities, and help that child
avoid sandboxes.

Emotional/Behavior Disorders: Show children their
boundaries. Discuss a child’s behavioral plan with volunteers in
advance so they can consistently apply rewards or
consequences.

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Visual and Hearing Impairments: “Peer Buddies”
work well to help these children be more aware of their
surroundings and learn basic signs of communication.

When you make the effort to include children with special needs in
recreation, parents notice. Safety helps you create an environment
that shows all kids the love of God. Want to see the power of
including children with special needs? Check out Jason McElwain’s
story by searching on Youtube for “The Power of a Dream Changes
Lives!”

Pat Verbal is the co-author of Special Needs-Special Ministry
(Group) and manager of curriculum development at the Christian
Institute on Disability (joniandfriends.org)

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