Playgrounds specifically designed for children on the autism spectrum are growing in popularity. Sensory processing disorder is one condition which play areas can be tailored for. As we continue to understand and appreciate the way our children think, play and grow, we’re able to help them with colourful, fun and safe playground equipment to encourage development.
Playground equipment shouldn’t just be fun! It should also benefit from design and manufacture that offers children safe spaces to explore and enquire.
Many schools and centres are adopting special play equipment and playground design for specific needs. One of the most common needs in young children is for sensory toys and equipment.
Playground designs based around the senses, and which will appeal to those children with sensory processing disorder, are likely to help thousands of young people explore and play in safe and exciting new ways.
What is Sensory Processing Disorder?
Sensory processing disorder, sometimes known as SPD, is a neurological condition. It has been under research and evaluation for over 60 years. As such, schools and play centres are making sure to support children exhibiting behavioural patterns in line with the condition. Click here to learn more about the disorder.
Children with SPD may struggle to adapt to sensory elements in their everyday lives. For example, they may find even the slightest noises or lighting to be extremely stressful or concerning. Children who have SPD might find it difficult to get used to the world around them at first. They may sometimes react strongly, and emotionally, to everyday objects, items and sensations.
By understanding how children with SPD perceive the world around them, we will be in a better position to help them play, grow and develop. SPD can sometimes be difficult to diagnose. However, awareness of the condition, along with other conditions on the autism spectrum, is increasing in the public eye.
How Outdoor Play Can Help
Outdoor play can help children with SPD to explore the world around them in safe, fun ways, at a pace that is comfortable to their levels of perception. As of now, there are no specific medical treatments available to help children overcome sensory difficulties. Therefore, it is crucial that we provide them with fun ways to approach the outside world.
Outdoor play is proven to be beneficial to help engage children’s attention at school. Sensory playgrounds and equipment, specifically designed to support children with SPD, will safely and gently appeal to all the senses. These activities, games and equipment are all designed by specialists with experience in supporting those children with SPD.
Therefore, unlike traditional playground equipment, SPD playground and outdoor play ideas will help children to engage with the world around them. It may sometimes be difficult to encourage children with sensory processing disorder to engage with outdoor activities and playground equipment. Therefore, specific sensory play areas and outdoor play features will appeal to those children otherwise struggling to adapt.
Many children with SPD struggle to maintain attention both with work and play. Outdoor play and SPD equipment will help young people to embrace the senses. This can also help them develop in a way that they can begin to cope with sudden, sensory moments.
As there is no cure for SPD, it is important that children afflicted by the condition receive gentle care and support. There is no better way to encourage this support and care than through outdoor play and activities.
Play Equipment for Children with Sensory Processing Difficulties
Play equipment for children with sensory processing difficulties is designed with attention spans and strong sensory responses in mind. The main aim of SPD-friendly playground equipment and outdoor play is to help children to adapt to everyday sensations. You should offer this in a way which is neither shocking to them, nor in a way which motivates zero response.
Play equipment such as water tables and outdoor kitchen play areas may help children with SPD to get accustomed to everyday sensory events and moments. In many cases, children may not have to make direct contact with play tables and equipment. Therefore, if they wish to observe from afar, they can do so.
Playground equipment which offers gentle sensory approach is designed with guidance in mind. Children with SPD should always receive encouragement to explore and play. However SPD-friendly standards are ideal for those who need a helping hand.
You can also find play area designs for non-verbal pupils to help create an outdoor space which suits their needs as well.
Sensory Play Ideas
Ideal sensory play ideas are those which allow children to explore touch, sight and hearing at their own paces. For example, a gentle arbour or archway system could help to encourage children to touch and feel specific textures, gently developed with high sensitivity in mind. Not only this, but children may also benefit from gentle musical elements built into such units.
SPD playground ideas should also offer a wide variety of opportunities to explore. The ideal sensory playground could include sand and water play areas where children can pour and experiment with clean water in controlled environments.
They may also benefit from gentle vestibular equipment, encouraging children to explore the way that balance works, and how they can explore forces and movements at their own paces.
Visual play is crucially important for children with SPD. Visual sensory play ideas, therefore, could include those which explore depth perception. They may also benefit from mirror play, which could help develop comfort with making eye contact. This may be a common affliction in those children on the autism spectrum.
Finding the Right Sensory Play Equipment
The best sensory playground is one which offers children a balance between all the senses. It should also encourage children to explore the world around them in a way that they feel comfortable.
We also recommend that sensory playgrounds and those toys built for sensory processing disorder receive supervision. Though our playground equipment is safe for very young children to use on their own.
If you would like to know more about sensory play and playground equipment likely to appeal to children with sensory processing disorder, please make sure to contact our team.