Engaging children with additional support needs (ASN) and their families with the proposed upgrade of a community play park, ensuring that children's voices are heard
Executive Summary The following project was delivered in partnership with Fife Health and Social Care Partnership: Children and Young People’s Occupational Therapy Service (CYPOT), which was involved with a project at Lochore Meadow’s Country Park, Fife. There was a proposed upgrade to the play park and CYPOT were part of the Project Planning Group which contributed to the design of the new park. As an occupational therapy service, they were particularly interested in ensuring the upgraded play park enabled all children to play, regardless of their needs. The service had received feedback that opportunities for play were limited for children in the local community with disabilities. As all children have the right to play, the service had an ethical and legal responsibility to contribute to the improvement of play opportunities (UNCRC 1990). In addition, from a health promotion perspective, by improving access to play for all children, this was likely to decrease the likelihood of children experiencing secondary disabilities linked with lack of access to physical play opportunities (Bundy and Du Toit 2019). The aim of this project was to ascertain the views of children with ASN and their families about the changes they would like included in the upgrade of a local play park. To achieve this, an anonymous online survey was developed and distributed to families by schools, community groups and social media. Analysis revealed 111 families completed the survey about community play. Children had a diverse range of ASN and many parents reported that their children had multiple ASN. Overall, most children identified the 5 most enjoyable play experiences as playing on; swings, moving fast, seeing new things, sliding and spinning. The five activities that the fewest number of children participated in were: balancing, climbing, adventurous play, jumping and crawling. Interestingly, these activities involve more physical activity and it is possible that children with physical disabilities have fewer opportunities to access this type of play. Comments from families provided insightful information about what families want from a play experience. “Accessibility and Inclusion” was an overarching theme which strongly emerged from comments. The most requested play experiences in the comments were: swings (wheelchair accessible, more supportive seating, basket swings), spinning activities, adventurous play, sensory play and bounce equipment. Overall, children with ASN and their families clearly articulated the need for more inclusive and accessible play experiences in their community. They provided clear and detailed information about what they require for a play experience to be valuable. Their feedback was used to inform the project planning group of how they could meet this group of children’s needs by facilitating a more inclusive play experience.