Erin Thibodeaux and her daughter Aubrey were among the first in line on Sept. 24 to enjoy the city’s new barrier free playground. In fact, Aubrey helped Mayor Becky Ames cut the ribbon.
“We are very excited about it,” said Thibodeaux, holding Aubrey in her arms before the ceremony. Aubrey, who has cerebral palsy, uses leg braces and a rolling walker, which make it difficult for her to navigate a conventional playground. The surfaces and equipment at the new facility open up new possibilities, her mom said. “Children learn through play and experience. This being barrier free will allow her to come out and explore.”
Barrier free playgrounds are specifically designed so that children with physical and developmental disabilities, as well as younger children, can play and interact without the limitations of conventional equipment and landscaping. The new Rotary Centennial Playground is the culmination of extensive planning, work, and fundraising by the Rotary Club of Beaumont, which chose the project to mark its 100th year. Once completed, the park was turned over to the city.
Lora Beth Waller, who works with the Early Childhood Intervention program at the Spindletop Center, advised Beaumont Rotary on the playground’s design. She said in addition to being accessible, the equipment encourages beneficial motions like spinning, swaying, and climbing using the upper body. “The equipment was picked to foster gross motor development and encourage play among children of all abilities,” said Waller.
“The equipment was picked to foster gross motor development and encourage play among children of all abilities.”
For example, children with autism benefit from spinning, which ” … cuts down on unwanted repetitive behaviors and calms their systems so they can concentrate on other skills like learning and talking,” said Waller. The Cozy Dome provides a spot for stressed-out children to decompress. “We got this so kids who might be overstimulated, they can go in and take a minute to collect themselves.” The Sway Fun can accommodate two children in wheelchairs, and eight others. “You have to work together to make it work,” she said.
Beth Schreck, who was at the opening with her son Timmy, praised the careful planning that went into the project, and what it would mean for her son and his friends.
“He’s capable, but he would go on field trips and his little friends would just have to sit on the side,” she said. “There’s a lot more to it than ‘Hey, let’s build a playground.’ They went above and beyond.”
Rotary Centennial Playground is located at 600 Crockett St., and is open to children and adults of all ages and abilities.