A Cincinnati Park in is about to get a huge face lift. The 8,000 square foot park in Cincinnati, Ohio will be a park like no other. In 1999, the original park was built by community volunteers and Kiwanis. West Fork Park will include unique features for young children with autism. The park playground will have a universal design, but it will offer features for children of all ages and educational levels. According to officials on the Green Township Board of Trustees, the new playground will cost about $500,000. The new playground will include a climbing and sliding hill, a musical playground, a zip line, a maze for toddlers, and slides and swings for the children. The unique features, specifically for children with autism, will include elements that appeal to children with sensory challenges. Children with autism may face sensory difficulties which may lead to unwanted behaviors and meltdowns.
Children with autism may feel overwhelmed in traditional playground settings and isolate themselves. “We’re hoping with this playground to get children more involved and more willing to be around other kids, as well as, have fun,” Stanton-Chapman told Cincinnati USA TODAY. Tina Stanton-Chapman is a professor and associate director of Early Childhood Education and Human Development at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Education. Stanton-Chapman is a lead developer involved in the collaborative project with the Green Township officials and Playground Equipment Services.
The playground will feature a maze for children that will incorporate visual and tactile elements that will help children with autism integrate their senses and have more pleasurable experiences with other children and their environment. Another unique feature is the music element that the playground will offer. Individuals with autism show a heightened response to music. Music therapy includes the use of behavioral and educational models to enhance an individual’s quality of life. Music therapy has been shown to improve behavior, improve communication, reduce anxiety, and improve social skills.