How School Playground Equipment Helps Children With Autism

Tuesday, 10th July 2018 4:06 pm

School playground equipment plays a major role in enriching children’s learning experience in the classroom. All children benefit from physical, social and imaginative play and playtime provides the perfect opportunity for them to experience this type of play. Children with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) benefit from outdoor play because it decreases their sensitivity to stimuli.

We are much more in tune with the needs of children with autism than ever before. National Autism Awareness week was from March 27th to April 2nd this year. This gives us a greater understanding of the trials children with ASD face every day. Autism affects 1 in 100 people in the UK so the chances of knowing someone with the condition is pretty high. ASD affects children differently depending on the severity of the condition.

ASD describes a group of complex disorders affecting brain development resulting in children reacting to the world differently to others. Children with autism are as clever, funny, interesting and as wonderful as their friends but have difficulty processing the world around them. Sometimes the world becomes overwhelming and children find life difficult. This requires them to develop strategies to cope with the complex world they live in.

What Is Autism?

Autism is a complex condition that we are only starting to understand. Children with ASD interpret the world differently and appear to overreact to everyday occurrences. They feel most comfortable following routines and keeping everything the same. Life isn’t always consistent which causes children to feel insecure and panic. Diagnosis normally occurs between two or three years old although signs are noticeable before then. Possible causes are physical or genetical and are due to brain structure which results in behaviour issues.

There are many different types of autism and many different causes so every child with the condition has individual needs. ASD affects children behaviourally, physically, cognitively and emotionally. Children with autism have a lot to deal with because it affects their whole being. There is a whole list of symptoms such as avoiding eye contact, high sensitivity, being unable to read body language or feeling shy. Children have some symptoms but not others and don’t always fit the stereotype we assume.

Imagine living in a world where the rules don’t make sense and everyone seems to understand what is happening but not you. The book, ‘The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time’ is written from the perspective of someone with autism and highlights the way people with autism interpret the world. Schools help children to address their needs by helping them to devise strategies to cope with the world.

How Does School Playground Equipment Help?

A study in 2010 involving teachers, parents and volunteers recognised the benefits of outdoor play for children with autism. Being outside gives children space and a calm environment necessary for children with autism to learn. School playground equipment enables many different types of play including; role play, physical play and sensory play.

Role play helps children to practise their responses to different situations and understand the world from other perspectives. Sharing equipment allows children to explore social interaction and develop relationships with others. They will learn how to play by copying others and may even feel confident enough to join in.

Physical play not only improves coordination and balance it also calms the mind through vestibular stimulation. Children with autism gain comfort from rocking and spinning which has a calming effect. Physical exercise helps children to overcome clumsiness and feel confident in their own bodies. Also, they feel a sense of achievement if they manage to climb up different pieces of equipment.

The classroom is an intense environment with so many rules and regulations it is overwhelming for children with autism. The pressure builds up until they can not cope with it anymore resulting in meltdowns and anger. Allowing children to experience the freedom of the playground releases the pent-up emotion giving children the chance to calm down.

A lot more research needs to be done on the benefits of outdoor play and ASD but we are already seeing positive results.

If you would like to find out more about school playground equipment please contact us and we would be happy to give advice.