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Autism Awareness: Inclusion Begins In Our Own Communities

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When Connor was younger, a trip to the park required a high-protein breakfast and a good, solid pair of running shoes.  It was common for him, without any notice, to take off running as fast as his little legs would carry him.  Whether for the feeling of the breeze blowing through his hair, or the sweet, sweet taste of freedom tantalizingly close, we will never know exactly what drove this desire to bolt like an unbroken stallion.

As soon as he could walk he was running.

Venturing to the park with Connor was never a solo mission for either my husband or myself.  Not because we were lazy, but because it was dangerous.  Chatting idly with another parent or sitting peacefully on a bench and reading a book were not options.  We had to be alert at all times, and stay close to the boy, lest he disappear quicker than a winning lottery ticket.

A simple outing to the park is a stressful situation for many parents of children with special needs.  I remember wishing for a place I could take him, where he would have a certain degree of freedom, but would still be safe.

Recently, an inclusive park opened less than 5 miles from our home, and this past weekend I had the chance to team up with a friend and her daughter, and take Connor.

“The essence of our effort to see that every child has a chance must be to ensure each an equal opportunity, not to become equal, but to become different, to realize whatever unique potential of body, mind and spirit he or she possesses.”  That right there, that is inclusion.

The first thing I noticed about the park was that it’s completely enclosed by a fence, with a double gate at the entrance.  While a fence may be reminiscent of a prison for some, for me  it represents a safe, confined freedom.

The park is divided into different sensory play areas. Each area is big enough to accommodate a large number of children, and each area is wheelchair accessible.  We spent 20 minutes in the sandbox.

There was an area with instruments for those  that appreciate auditory sensory input.








.For the child that craves movement, via rocking or swinging, there is a sway cart (I don’t know what else to call it) that rocks back and forth, based on your body moving forward and back to cause movement. Unless you have a willing mom, who will stand and make the thing rock like a carnival ride for you.

Apparently my friend, Sabra, doesn't get vertigo, so she was the designated sway-er.

Of course, there was an extra-large playscape:

And it's shaded...

Oh, and more stuff for kids that like movement:

I was all about merry-go-rounds when I was younger, but now it would make me puke my guts out. But see that laughing boy, yeah, he's mine.

Easily the most unique and fantastic thing about this park is the mini-city.  Yes, I said MINI-CITY!!  They have mock buildings for the grocery store, hospital, library, and fire station.  And they have a mock street, complete with crosswalks and a street light.  For any parent that is nervous about teaching their young child about street safety and learning to cross a street, it is the perfect place to begin practicing that skill.

There's my friend, setting a bad example by not staying on the sidewalk!

About the only thing missing from the park was a water play area, which would be a popular  feature here in Texas, due to the high summer temps.  And I know my son would spend most of his time in the water.

I absolutely loved the design of the park.  More than that, I loved seeing NT kids playing right alongside kids with special needs.  When we talk about wanting inclusion for our children, it starts right here on the local level, with a park like this one.   It’s autism awareness month, and this is the kind of thing we should be advocating for in every community, because integration begins with our children learning to play together and accept one another’s differences.

Big kudos to the city of Round Rock, Texas, for making this park a reality.  You can read more about it here:

We had such a fabulous time at the park, we stopped on the way home to take pictures of wildflowers.  And what did that little shit do?

You gotta be kidding me, little boy.

I don’t think I’ll be packing away my running shoes just yet.



About Flannery

Kid, husband, dogs, my mother, full-time job, maximum stress, minimal relaxation...sooner or later I had to vent. AND we moved from California to Texas. I could start a whole other blog about that.

26 responses »

  1. This park looks amazing!!

  2. WOW. I am so jealous!! We would spend, like DAYS at that park!

  3. that’s an awesome park! we have an all inclusive park here too–but with no fence. and not HALF as cool as that park. love that mini city!

  4. Looks and sounds lovely… my boy used to do the same thing bolt away from the day he could walk and he walked early too. I could have used a park like that.
    Shorts and T shirts!…I am green with envy.

  5. Totally cool! I am advocating for one here! This IS California! We should have one- & so should everyplace! Thanks for the link! And how awesome is that adorable young man picking flowers?! Awww…

  6. That park looks amazing for any kid! I want to go hang out there. 🙂

  7. What an amazing idea – executed well, too! Wow. Just very impressed. 🙂

  8. I am in love with that park. LOVE. All except that thing you need to stand on and rock back and forth. I’d need a puke bucket…..

    That picture of him running is priceless. Go get a big frame and hang that thing up. Its beautiful.

  9. Wow! That park looks amazing! What a dream come true! I wish there was something like that around here.

  10. These are great pics.

    I’m a little choked up that the good people of Round Rock care enough about our kids to build such a beautiful and accessible park! Somebody with money and influence there must have a special needs kid. That park obviously required lots of planning and cost an ass-ton of money.

    Sorry for the cynicism, but we have nothing like that around here. And I have neither money nor influence, so don’t look at me. . . .

  11. Wow, that park looks awesome! We don’t have anything like that around here. Mini Meerkat would love that, especially the Mini City. I want a Mini City…

  12. I love that park! It’s fantastic!


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