Not all children enjoy playgrounds. Autistic children tend to hang on the sidelines, intimidated by the prospect of joining their peers in play. But at Grattan Elementary School in San Francisco, a new piece of playground equipment is supposed to change all that.
A plastic green dome, with a curvy wall full of holes, was designed to bring children together in a small space and encourage them to interact with each other while interacting with the wall. The dome was donated to Grattan Elementary by one of our preferred vendors, Landscape Structures.
The San Francisco Chronicle describes this touching moment of connection between Julian Kanter, a six-year-old with autism, and one of his classmates:
On Tuesday, kindergartner Julian, a smile on his face, ran out onto the Grattan Elementary School playground at recess and headed for the new hollow dome, climbed to the top and slowly pushed his hand through an opening. Inside the dome, a little girl reached up and held Julian's hand. It was a seemingly insignificant interaction amid the chaos of school recess, but the structure gave two schoolchildren a chance to connect—one with autism, the other without.
Pamela Wolfberg, director of the Autism Spectrum Program at San Francisco State University, says of the new dome, “All the kids love it, but the kids with autism just took to it."
As autism rates continue to rise—they increased by 57 percent between 2002 to 2006—we’re glad to see that Wolfberg and others are addressing autistic children’s unique needs when it comes to play and peer socialization. To think that playgrounds are inducing fear in growing numbers of children is indeed disheartening, and we hope other schools follow Grattan Elementary's lead.