Sensory Garden Helps Children With Autism Blossom
The Sensory Garden Playground in Lisle offers children of all abilities the chance to play, socialize, commune with nature, and experience sensory stimuli in ways accessible and acceptable to all children, including those with special needs.
For children with autism, sensory overload can be a stumbling block. To minimize distractions, the garden is set in a wooded area, away from streets and traffic, where the mood is tranquil and the surroundings are calming and peaceful, allowing children with autism an opportunity to escape from chaos, noise, and overstimulation and revel in the peace of a beautiful, natural setting.
Here, children experience the sights, smells, and sounds of nature where they learn about the world around them and find joy and serenity.
While the park encourages exploration and active play, it does so in a low tech, fun way with select sensory experiences designed to elicit wonder and smiles. Play for All is a place where parents can feel confident that their children are in a safe environment.
When children with autism are overstimulated, they may feel the impulse to run or wander. At Play for All, the perimeter is contained, thereby limiting risk from roadways, traffic or other hazards.
There are sound and fragrance gardens, interactive sculptures and landscaping that allow children to indulge their senses but also affords them an opportunity to take breaks from being surrounded by their peers when they feel the need to wind down and relax.
Inclusive play matters. Many children with autism are in therapy programs to learn social skills, balancing, how the body relates to the space around it, and how they may react to height and speed.
The Sensory Playground is an ideal place for children to put what they learn into practice. Here, children can choose the level of sensory stimulation they prefer. Noisy activities are separated from quiet activities. Quiet areas are designed to give children an opportunity to regain control.
Some activities are designed to encourage socialization. Socialization can be as simple as a seesaw ride that involves one child interacting with just one other child or it can involve larger groups. The key is that alternatives are available to accommodate all special needs and each child’s needs at any particular time.
Often, children with autism have problems with balance. At the Sensory Garden Playground, there is a wide range of balancing activities that involve various heights, widths, and different types of motion. This encourages experimentation and personal growth.
Toys and rides that involve crawling, climbing, spinning, swinging, and jumping help children experience a variety of tactile, auditory and motion-based sensory experiences.
The playground is designed with lines of sight that allow children to see what is going on near and far, thereby reducing anxiety. Any large structures are strategically placed so they don’t block the children’s panoramic view of the scene.
Designed as an inclusive place where children with a variety of needs may congregate, learn, have fun, and grow, the Sensory Garden Playground offers children with autism an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and meet with their peers.
“The garden is set in a wooded area, away from streets and traffic, where the mood is tranquil and the surroundings are calming and peaceful, allowing children with autism an opportunity to escape from chaos, noise and overstimulation and revel in the peace of a beautiful, natural setting.”
Photo credit: Kmiecik Imagery
The Play For All Playground & Garden Foundation’s mission is to create barrier-free and universally accessible outdoor play spaces and gardens in DuPage County. Through the cognitive, social, and physical values of play, the Foundation promotes a spirit of inclusion and enhances quality of life, as well as supports involvement in recreation and wellness activities for all people and abilities.
Without boundaries. Without limits. Play for all.
The Play for All Foundation would like to express its heartfelt gratitude to the Wheaton Lions Club for a grant award this past spring.
The $1,500 grant supported the playground’s fragrance garden and garden beds. Every spring new native plants are planted in the planter boxes and around the edges of the playground. The plantings enable the public to smell, touch and see a variety of species and are especially therapeutic for children with sensory processing disorders.
The planter boxes are at both standingheight level and at a level that can be accessed by individuals in a wheelchair. The planters are marked with signs that help educate visitors about the plant species and their place in the ecological system.
Species often planted at the site include Lamb’s ear, geraniums, citronella, corkscrew grasses, American hornbeam, eastern redbud, and common witch hazel.
WE VERY MUCH APPRECIATE THE ASSISTANCE FROM THE WHEATON LIONS CLUB!
We Need Your Help Now More Than Ever
Plans to expand the Sensory Garden Playground with the addition of new features designed to appeal to children ages 5 to 12 continue to evolve.
The first phase of the equine-themed playground opened in 2015 with amenities intended for children ages 2 to 5. Since then, several new features have been added.
Today, the playground offers children a variety of sensory experiences and playtime fun. There is an accessible treehouse, a musical sound garden, a fragrance garden, swings, a Gravity Rail that lets seated riders glide through the air just a few feet off the ground, and a GT Wave net climber. There are also art displays, mini rocking horses, and garden planters.
The new playground area for older children eventually will include climbers, slides, a bouncer, bridges, ramps and a horse racetrack.
Funding for this effort continues to grow. As of mid-October 2022, the Play for All Playground and Garden fundraising campaign had raised roughly $200,000 toward the goal of $500,000. A generous donor has pledged $50,000 this calendar year when we raise $50,000. So far we have raised $34,000 to date. Help us raise the remaining $16,000.
Donations may be made at playforall.kindful.com. Your donation today will be doubled.
There is no admission fee for the park which is located in a wooded area at 2751 Navistar Drive, Lisle, in Danada South Park, just northeast of Naperville and Warrenville roads.
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Thank you Kevin Lavin
We received a donation from Kevin Lavin for the necessary Engineered Wood Fiber (EWF) safety surfacing that is placed under the gravity rail. Through his company, Northwest Snow and Timber Service, he has graciously provided the EWF for several areas throughout the playground ensuring a safe and accessible surface.
Summer Play Days at Sensory Garden a Success
Playfully-themed Play Days at the Sensory Garden Playground were enjoyed by dozens of families this summer.
These special days usually run from 10 a.m. to noon on one Saturday per month during the summer season. Visitors play games, enjoy give-aways, and participate in group events such as story time. Admission is free.
The theme in May was space. In June it was animals and in July, transportation took center stage with a mini touch-a-truck event. September’s theme was dinosaurs, which included a “dinosaur bone dig.”
While Play Days usually go forward, rain or shine, extreme conditions can sometimes interfere. Weather was a factor this year – while June and July Play Days benefited from favorable weather conditions, the August Play Day was disrupted by inclement weather so it was postponed until September.
Save the third Saturday of each month May through August next year for the return of summer Play Days!
Elliott Nicholas Senkevicius Memorial
We would like to acknowledge and thank donors, who collectively gave more than $8,000 for Sensory Garden Playground improvements in memory of Elliott Nicholas Senkevicius.
Eliott’s mom, Melissa Guido, told us that he was particularly fond of visiting the Sensory Garden Playground.
A memorial plaque for Elliott will be installed at the Sensory Garden Playground.