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How can a playground make a difference for a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)?

Play matters for everyone, including children on the autism spectrum. Small playground design decisions can make a big difference between including or excluding those children.

Autism spectrum disorder, commonly known as ASD, affects how people communicate and interact with others. It affects how they make sense of the world. These traits are often accompanied by sensory issues, such an oversensitivity or under sensitivity to sounds, smells or touch. All these difficulties may lead to behavioural challenges in some individuals.

Personality Strengths of People with Autism

  • Detail Oriented
  • Strong long term memory skills
  • Independent and logical thinking
  • Intense focusing ability when working on a favourite activity
  • Honesty and direct communication

Challenges faced by children with Autism

  • Communication and expressing themselves
  • Difficulty dealing with change
  • Processing multiple senses, can become overwhelmed.
  • Perceiving emotions of others
  • Difficulty focusing on something other than their interest.
  • Unbalanced set of skills

Playtime for children with autism is different than for kids without. They likely enjoy playing as much as the next child, but certain types of play could prove challenging. It isn’t uncommon for children with Autism to play differently from other kids in that they like doing the same thing time and time again without seeming to tire of the activity (i.e., spinning and watching the wheels on a toy car, or needing to build blocks the same way every time).

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, an estimated 164,000 Australians had autism in 2015 (ABS 2016). This represented an overall prevalence rate of 0.7 percent, or about 1 in 150 people. Due to an increase of awareness, the number of people with diagnosed autism in Australia has increased considerably in recent years, up from an estimated 64,400 people in 2009 (ABS 2014), making Autism the second most common primary disability in Australia.  

To learn more about Autism, check out https://www.autismawareness.com.au/

Social Play

Autism is a spectrum, meaning that characteristics can vary from child to child. Some are non-verbal, while others would have no problem speaking.

Some may only be interested in on-looker play, while others want to play alone or side-by-side with other children. Cooperative social play can be a challenge for kids with autism, and while it’s okay for them to want to play independently, it’s a good idea to provide him or her with the opportunity to play with other kids.

Sensory Play

People on the autism spectrum are likely to either seek or avoid sensory experiences.

Include opportunities for children to use their tactile, auditory, and visual sensory systems by adding many different textures, sounds, and things to look at. These might include freestanding musical equipment, interactive play panels, or fidget toys integrated onto a traditional modular play unit.

A Quiet Space: Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)

Sometimes, the sights and sounds and even smells of a busy playground may become overwhelming for a child with Autism. This can cause stress and lead to overstimulation, or a meltdown. This is known as Sensory processing disorder.

It is a good idea to include quiet zones or areas in a playground where children can go to re-group, focus, and calm down from any potential overstimulation.

Playground equipment such as The Quiet Grove was specifically designed to reduce the sights and sounds that can become overwhelming to create a calming space. The Quiet Grove combines soothing benefits of nature with sensory and fidget activities. This alleviates children’s stress and allows them to regain control and focus.

Sense of Space (Proprioception) and Balance 

To help children with Autism with their sense of space, include opportunities for children to work on their vestibular (sense of balance) and proprioceptive systems by spinning, swinging, jumping, climbing, and hanging activities.

The Titan Carousel Allows children of all abilities to play together as they run, swing, climb and spin around together.

Fencing around the playground

It is somewhat common for children with Autism to tend to wander off on their own.
For peace of mind of the parents or caregivers, it is a good idea to fence the playground, especially where there may be a busy road or potential hazards nearby.

Organise the Playground using paths

An orientation path gives children a level of control. They can walk around the entire playground and see what’s happening. Where is it the loudest? Where it is the busiest? Where are the quiet places? Where is my favourite thing to do?  

Once they observe the situation, they can determine where they feel comfortable playing. It may be different each time they go to the playground. After playing, they may choose to head back to the path to regroup and figure out where they want to go next.

Line of Sight and Supervision

Children can only play for as long as their parents / caregivers can supervise!

Ease of supervision is one of the most important parts which make up a truly inclusive playground. A parent / caregiver should be able to stand at almost all points on the playground orientation path and see their child. If there are many play zones within the playground, the line of sight should cross each play zone, allowing a caregiver to easily locate their child within the zone.

A Line marked pathway to combine a functional element with Imaginative play value, using the Eco Station.

We Recommend the following play equipment to include in your playground

Inclusive Playgrounds

If you’re looking to make your playground more inclusive, the experts at Austek Play can help. 

We are committed to providing innovate play spaces for everyone to enjoy. We want to help create spaces that celebrate the unique qualities that we all have and ensure we design spaces that allows these qualities to shine.

Together, we can make Australian Playgrounds more inclusive!

Contact us now!

Professional SportPoint at the University of Queensland

The recently installed Denfit Professional SportPoint have been a great hit for both students and the community. Adjustable weights and instructions through QR codes mean exercises are easily accessible, no matter if you’re a beginner looking to start your fitness journey, or an experienced athlete!

The Professional SportPoint Range features all the essential training equipment for users to train every muscle group. The range is manufactured using long-lasting, high-quality materials and processes. Get in touch today for a quote!

Designing for Inclusion; Epilepsy and Ease of Supervision

Epilepsy is a common condition that affects the brain and causes frequent seizures. Seizures are bursts of electrical activity in the brain that temporarily affect how it works.

Epilepsy usually starts in childhood, however it is also common in people over 60. Seizures can affect people in different ways, depending on which part of the brain is involved.

Possible symptoms include uncontrollable jerking and shaking (called a “fit”), losing awareness and staring blankly into space, becoming stiff, strange sensations – such as a “rising” feeling in the stomach, or collapsing.

Sometimes, someone with epilepsy might pass out and not remember what happened. For caregivers of children with epilepsy (as well as parents with epilepsy themselves), a clear line of sight for supervision is quite important.

The medication children take for epilepsy often affects their ability to sweat, therefore, shade and cooling devices become very important for these children.

To learn more about epilepsy, visit https://www.epilepsy.org.au/about-epilepsy/facts-and-statistics/

Line of Sight and Supervision

Kids can only play for as long as their parents / caregivers can supervise!

Ease of supervision is one of the most important parts which make up a truly inclusive playground. A parent / caregiver should be able to stand at almost all points on the playground orientation path and see their child. If there are many play zones within the playground, the line of sight should cross each play zone, allowing a caregiver to easily locate their child within the zone.

John Pete Howard Reserve

How to Improve Line of Sight, and ease of supervision

  1. Maximize the use of equipment that one can see through and minimize the use of large equipment that blocks visibility. Line of sight is significantly improved if the space is broken into zones that can be supervised individually

2. Placing seating at multiple points around the area and at each entrance and exit. Some children will require more assistance in play areas than others, thus, it is important to provide some seating closer to the play area so that caregivers can relax while the children are able to play, but be immediately available when necessary.

3. Emphasise freestanding independent items over consolidated modular structures. These do not guarantee visibility but are usually less opaque than a modular structure.

4. Using scale, create spaces that allow children to feel like they are hidden and independent while still allowing for adequate observation.

Multiple shaded seating locations for adequate supervision at Austek Play’s Gulgong Adventure Playground

Inspired by Nature : Kenmore State School

Nature was our most important source of inspiration for this fantastic new playground designed and built for Kenmore State School, by Austek Play. Check out our new video below!

Rubber embankment with a natural balance trail and a 1.6m tube slide connects the two new areas

About Our Nature Play Range

Our nature-inspired play equipment mimics natural adventure, colours and scale, and provides a safe and kid-friendly experience. The materials used blend well within a natural environment and are durable and robust, providing a low maintenance solution, making outdoor play second nature!

All our natural timber is locally and sustainably sourced Australian hardwood, that integrates with the local surroundings.

Check out our “Inspired by Nature” Brochure below to learn more!

7 Things to consider when designing an Inclusive Playground

Play is recognised as essential for the healthy physical, social, and emotional development of all children. Through play, children develop important learning and life skills such as exploring, identifying, negotiating, risk taking and imagining. Play builds content knowledge and creative thinking and helps children develop their coordination, balance, gross and fine-motor skills.

It is also through play that children develop friendships and a sense of belonging to a peer group. This is particularly important for disabled children, with studies revealing children with disabilities who play with typically developing children, grow and develop an understanding of their own abilities and strengths, and develop a more positive image of themselves.

7 Points to consider when planning an inclusive play space;

1. Access to relevant ground-level activities.

Surfacing to and around play activities needs to be accessible for both foot traffic and wheelchairs. There should be various access possibilities into and onto play activities and those activities should support varied body positions.

A variety of wheelchair accessible play activities at Nudgee Beach Reserve Playground, Brisbane QLD

2. Access to relevant elevated level activities Consider the access and possibility of elevated-level activities and consider the thrill levels and the social benefits of elevated levels. This can be done through the use of wheelchair ramps or accessible transfer points

3. Consider age groups

As the age of the users increases, the way they interact with their peers also evolves. Eventually, most are no longer motivated by imaginary play but have an increased desire to test their skills in a challenging environment.

4. Consider a range of disabilities.

We are passionate about encouraging schools and councils to work on inclusive designs for students who are on the autism spectrum as well as for students with physical needs. New equipment such as the Quiet Grove features built-in sensory activities such as fidget spinners and light switches. These installations dramatically improve accessibility for children on the autism spectrum by providing a place to self-regulate their sensory input.  Check out some of our other blog entries to learn more about designing for inclusive play.

5. Support social interaction

Provide activities that can be done in conjunction with others. Accessible game and panels provide the perfect opportunity for children of all abilities to play, socialise and engage with one another.

6. Support thrilling and challenging play

Offer thrilling activities such as spinning, swinging, swaying, bouncing, gliding, or sliding, along with graded play challenges – some that are easier and some that are harder.

The Double Flying Fox with the Inclusive Mirage Seat, so physically disabled users are able to enjoy the thrill of the glide! Gulgong Adventure Playground, Gulgong NSW

7. Be Safe

Safety is important for any playground – inclusive playgrounds are no exception. Inclusive play spaces should address the most current Australian safety standards while still maintaining their ability to provide opportunities for developmental challenge and exploration.

Designing for Inclusive Play : Accessibility

How can you design your next play space to enable children, parents, carers, and others to use and move around the space easily?

A well-designed play space should ideally provide people of all abilities the opportunity to move throughout the play space safely and independently. This can include solid pathways, rest areas and shaded areas to cool down. Budget and size restraints may limit the possibility of these options.

Pathways & Surfacing

Wheelchair Accessible Pathways leading to various play activities and amenities. Tunkuwallin Oval Playspace , Gwandalan NSW
  • Surfacing pathways should be solid and level where possible, leading to different areas and activities of the play space.
  • Key pathways should be at least 1.5m wide to allow for wheelchair access
  • Pathways should lead to shaded areas and any other amenities.

The Spinmee Roundabout is flush with the rubber softfall surfacing, allowing for children in wheelchairs to easily board the roundabout.

Reach Ranges

Research has shown that it is not enough for a child to see, they must also be able to touch / feel to be engaged. Children should be able to interact with the play features, any wayfinding signage and surrounding tactile input with their hands.

  • Placing play panels, musical equipment, sand tables etc at varying heights to accommodate children who have different reach range.
  • Ensure that a child who is using a wheelchair can access the play equipment and features by sitting at / under them. Reaching forward can be more enjoyable and doable than reaching to the side.

Wheelchair Accessible activities at Nudgee beach reserve, Nudgee QLD

Transfer Platforms

Transfer platforms allow a child or adult who is using a mobility aid such as wheelchair, to transfer to and from the aid independently and use the play space more easily.  Transfer platforms are a great alternate to wheelchair ramps where there may not be enough space available for the ramp.

The Hags UniPlay Range feature a variety of units with a dedicated transfer platform allowing for easy onboarding onto the Play Unit from a wheelchair or mobility aid

Austek Play’s approach

We pride ourselves on being passionate about bringing Inclusive Play into Australian Parks and Schools. Our most popular products for inclusive play provide a rich range of physical, sensory, and social play values.

Follow Austek Play on LinkedIn for the latest information on Inclusive Play and the playground industry or contact us to get in touch and see how we can make your new play space more inclusive!

Click here to view our brochure, which contains a snapshot of Austek Play’s Inclusive Range!

Hanover Drive Park

Austek Play | Hanover Drive Park | Redlands QLD on Vimeo

Designed by Redland City Council, Hanover Drive Park is the result of an excellent use of Austek Play’s equipment in Design.  The region’s latest-and-greatest playground is already proving to be a bit hit amongst kids of all ages.

Hanover Drive Park features the largest custom Cemer Playground Equipment units ever installed in Australia, the spinning dome climber and the  along with a feature filled toddler unit by Austek Play’s partners at QUALI-Cité. These are all connected together through a range of classic playground equipment from Hags and Omnitech.  

This outstanding park is a testament to Austek Play’s fantastic range of play equipment from both here in Australia, and around the world.

It was a pleasure to work with our local government once again and we thank Redland City Council for supporting local business.

With the largest playground and outdoor fitness range in Australia, Austek Play aims to inspire kids of all ages and abilities to get outside and play!

Having won an array of accolades, including a Red Dot Design Award while running their own competitions to increase awareness of product design excellence in playgrounds, Turkey’s Cemer are leaders in innovation of play equipment. Austek Play are proud to be exclusively distributing Cemer play equipment throughout schools and councils across Queensland, NSW and the NT!

State of Play Survey 2021

“ Play matters and no-one, no matter their age, ability, culture, race or gender should ever be excluded from their right to play.”

We certainly agree!

Variety – the Children’s Charity NSW & ACT is talking to kids, teens and families right across the country about who is playing, who is not and why. They have asked us to share this quick online survey, with some great prizes on offer!

It only takes about 5 minutes and will help to get more kids playing, playing together and playing in their local communities.

The survey is available at variety.org.au/variety-state-of-play

This is part of our Inclusive Play mission to ensure every child has access to a local play space where they can play, play with others, and play in their local community and our broader vision to promote social inclusion through play. Creating inclusive play spaces where everyone feels safe, welcome and that they belong to promote healthy life choices and strengthening community connections in active, outdoor play and passive recreation.

To learn more about Variety- the children’s charity, please visit their website at the link below;

https://www.variety.org.au/

NEW SURFERS PARADISE PARK OPEN NOW!!

Located just a few blocks down from the Iconic Surfers Paradise beach on the Gold Coast, this fantastic new playground at Roma Park is sure to be a popular spot for children and their parents alike.

Designed and constructed by Austek Play together with Omnitech Playgrounds , this exciting custom Marine-Grade unit features a wide range of rope and rock-wall climbing activities along with the much-loved spiral tube slide.

Check out our range to get inspired!

Designing for Inclusive Play : Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy is an umbrella term for a group of disorders that affects a person’s ability to move. This means that not everyone with Cerebral Palsy looks the same and it affects different people in different ways. It could affect movement ability in one, some or all of the limbs; sometimes the muscles contract too much, too little, or all at the same time.

The Wheelchair accessible Spinmee Roundabout, Bundaberg Botanical Gardens QLD.

Cerebral Palsy is the most common physical disability in childhood with 1 in 500 children born in Australia each year. To find out more, please visit Cerebral Palsy Alliance.

Providing Opportunities for Play

Children with Cerebral Palsy have weak motor abilities and often use a wheelchair to get around. It is important to make the layout of your playground accessible and inclusive. This could mean having concrete or rubber paths leading to different play zones, avoiding elevation and installing wheelchair-accessible ramps where needed.

People with Cerebral Pasly aren’t necessarily wheelchair-bound, meaning some children are still be able to play on traditional playground equipment, so long as that equipment provides extra support and assistance.

Considering the physical limitations, we recommend equipment that has physical support, as well as sensory and interactive activities that promote social interaction – creating the opportunity for bonding and new friendships to be made!

Playground equipment such as the Dragonfly See Saw and the Mirage Swing Seat were specifically designed for such users, giving the opportunity for children with Cerebral Palsy to enjoy the classic fun of those traditional playground activities. Their design considers lower physical ability and allows them the same fun as everyone else!

Designed for Everyone to Enjoy

The Hags UniPlay range was designed with inclusive play in mind, and so provides play opportunities for children of all abilities. Children with physical disabilities such as Cerebral Palsy are encouraged to join in and play with their peers – doing wonders for their development.

The Mirage swing seat offers full body support and ensures that users are in a stable position.

  • An optional harness can be ordered to provide extra security
  • Provides full body support
  • Reclined body position and contoured design offers maximum comfort and support to all users

The Dragonfly Seesaw is another example of traditional play equipment (see-saw) re-designed to be inclusive.

  • Provides back and foot support for users with a lower gross motor strength
  • Riders use their leg power to rise and fall by pushing against the central bar

The following equipment is also suitable for children with Cerebral Palsy:

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We pride ourselves on being passionate about bringing Inclusive Play into Australian Parks and Schools. Our most popular products for inclusive play provide a rich range of physical, sensory, and social play values.

Follow Austek Play on LinkedIn for the latest information on Inclusive Play and the playground industry or contact us to get in touch and see how we can make your new play space more inclusive!

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Click here to view our brochure, which contains a snapshot of Austek Play’s Inclusive Range!

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