Recently we had a telephon interview with Peter*, whos child has certain limitations. As one of three kids Fabian* grew up in a endearing family, which gives him on one side as much personal and special support and on the other side treat him like his two older brothers.
Fabian lost half of his brain function after having a stroke, which lead to spastic hemiparalysis. Because of that further problems came up like a malposition of his hips and a curvature of the spine.
When I met him he was full of power, running around, shaking everybodys hand and laughing. But most of the time he should sit in his wheelchair, in order to guard against swollen and painful knees. Because of a cognitive limitation Fabian is receiving all the stimuli. As we can focus on one thing and block our environment out, Fabian can not filter environmental information. That makes him most of the time an observer, someone who is rather watching than being in the focus of interest. Since one year his parents noticed an aggressivity against himself, because he starts to reflect on himself, his position and possibilties. A psychologyst told them that often kids with disabilities that are more supported are more reflecting themselves and know what limitations they have compared to kids that are not getting that well supported.
Getting that special and individual support is really important for them, that’s why the parents decided to send Fabian to a school for physically handicapped kids. There they will have a class with about eight kids, one teacher and one pedagog. Trained assistants with different specializations like physiotherapist, care worker or ergotherapist are working in the school as well. Peter said that inclusion or integration is the actual content and sounds good, but it does not always work, as we can see in Fabians case.
And that individuality makes it even difficult on playgrounds to build it barrierfree.
For Fabian, who can walk and run but not grab, force or push with his one arm, playgrounds would need to have different requirements than for other handicapped kids.
Swinging is a really nice, exciting and relaxating activity. Swings with only a plank do not fit Fabian’s physical needs, since he is not able to hold himself with one arm. Laying on a birds nest swing is more easy for him.
Slides are good to use in case the entrance is easy to reach. Climbing nets or round ladders makes it difficult for Fabian.
Water and Sand is an interesting sensorial material, that all childs love. Playing in the mud, splashing with the water, diging holes or baking sand cakes are activities that could be on hip height and done while sitting in a wheelchair.
Getting this insight from a parents view leades us more in the direction of what kids with handicappes are able to do, what they like, what they prefer and what should have been thought from another perspective.
*Names changed to protect privacy