See-Saws and Sand Tables
Making friends is an important part of childhood, but talking about it makes me feel a little off balance, like being on a see-saw and wondering when I’ll hit bottom. Having a child with a disability can be somewhat isolating even when jumping up and down and yelling, “inclusion for all!!”
Think about it – where do kids meet up? At play dates arranged by moms at the same stage in life, at music classes or tumble groups, at the playground, at the beach in my neck of the woods, and eventually at school.
When you have a child with mobility issues like Aidan, some of these locations can be a challenge. I remember lugging Aidan to the beach when he was a baby. I was determined to make sure Liam, then two years old, didn’t miss out. This meant hauling a small oxygen tank, a car seat with a feeding pump snugged inside, and a backpack with beach essentials over rocks all while keeping an eye on my thankfully obedient toddler. Getting out was not for the faint of heart.
My saving grace was going to friends’ houses. Aidan, though immobile, was still portable. Liam could get some play time in with friends, I could get some important mom talk in, and Aidan, well, Aidan could watch and listen. Until he was no longer portable. Meeting up was still do-able, but I always had to consider logistics. Still do.
When the boys were little we lived near military housing complete with walkable sidewalks and playgrounds. I can’t say I gave much thought to the idea of accessible play spaces when Aidan was little because his body was too floppy to do much anyway. Sure I could get there, but he would end up sitting in his tricked out stroller hopefully benefitting somehow from the action around him.
When Aidan went to school, his physical therapist immediately saw the benefit of putting in an adaptive swing. It would give him more seated support and allow him to join in recreation with his peers. One of the ways that independent mobility, through the use of a power chair, has changed Aidan is that it makes him a do-er, an active participant, master of his universe. This is important not only for his development but for other kids’ perception of him.
It’s hard to talk about Aidan making friends. Really hard. It gets into a hornets nest of defining true friendship, which is not the same as peer play or having helpers.
But in order to build relationships you need to not only have access to common play areas but ways to participate.
We’re beyond playground days in this house but I love hearing about towns making sure their playgrounds are accessible. I’m always impressed by parents using their imagination, determination, and resources to include kids of all abilities. It’s important and I don’t want you to miss it.
A friend sent me the following link with a very cool video of an idea for an adaptive see-saw called MagikMe. Please check it out and share. They’ve already reached their goal to make a prototype of the see-saw, and now they’re starting work on a wheelchair accessible sand box. This work matters.
I’m the mom further along now that wants to cheer on the little mobility impaired kids on the playground. See them! Invite them! Play with them! Inclusion for all!!