Ready, Set, Play!

Victoria Tkachuk by Victoria Tkachuk Additional Needs

Victoria Tkachuk

Victoria Tkachuk

I'm from the Midwest region of the United States and I have four children, three neurotypical daughters and one son with dyskinetic cerebral palsy....

Ready, Set, Play!

Inclusive options should be available at all recreation centres.

Here in the middle of the U.S., the leaves are falling and temperatures are dropping, which can only mean one thing: winter is right around the corner. During the cold weather months, many of us spend more time (a lot more time) inside our homes. But when the cabin fever sets in, it's nice to venture out with the kids to a favourite recreation centre.

Our family is blessed to live in a community with many options for indoor fun. We have children's museums, planetariums, movie theatres, indoor gyms, trampoline parks and even indoor water parks. Everything is accessible to wheelchair users, so that's a great start. Many options are low cost or free, and to this frugal mom, that's even better.

Unfortunately, not everything is available to my son with cerebral palsy. A few simple tweaks could really help him and other additional needs kids to have just as much fun as their peers.

First, put some of the rotating new exhibits on the first floor of the facility! This would be awesome at the places that don't have elevators. Trampoline parks have a bevvy of soft helmets available for rent! Cleaning those dozen or so that would get used isn't a big deal (it's got to take less time than sanitizing all those trampolines, right?), and a helmet could be the difference between someone getting to jump safely and not getting to at all. Similarly, water parks can rent life jackets of different kinds for those who need one. Some of our kids really just want to float, but need extra support that specialized life jackets provide.

At the very simplest of solutions is for facilities to offer a weekly day that only special needs kids can attend. More staff could be on hand, and softer music played, light shows slowed down or otherwise modified for reducing sensory overload. A smaller capacity of attendees would allow more space for those kids using walkers or other equipment to get around. And if the business isn't sure how to modify the facility, they can inquire of parents through a website survey.

Do you have a favourite recreation centre that could use some modifications? Write them a letter or submit an inquiry via their website! Advocating can be as simple as that, and could help all our kids to get out and play like they want to.

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