Me: Okay, Bear. Where do you see a ball?
Apparently, Ellie thinks the little pastel, plastic eggs are balls. Oh wait, never mind, she is nearly tackling to the ground a mother holding an egg-filled basket with a balls painted on it. BBBBBAAAAALLLLLL! Thankfully, this mother totally understood the excitement surrounding the ball basket and appropriately braced for the impact.
It was early Saturday morning and we were at the Play for All Abilities Park in Round Rock, Texas for an egg hunt. This is one of my favorite parks but it is 30 minutes from us, meaning we do not make it out here very often. The Chunky Chicken screamed "Yay! Oh yeah oh yeah" as soon as our car pulled into the park. Clearly, it is one of her favorite parks too.
The park was closed to the public that Saturday so that children with special needs and their siblings could participate in an egg hunt. For many, this may have been their first hunt that they could fully participate in. True, there were eggs scattered on the ground like a traditional egg hunt, but there were also plastic filled goodies of yumminess strategically hanging by nylon thread from the rails of the playscape. At such a level that children in strollers and wagons could easily reach them. There were eggs carefully placed upon the windowsills of the building in the small pretend play town (er, life skills learning center). A town that is designed for wheelchairs, adaptive strollers, walkers, and wagons. Eggs that were at the perfect height for children in wheelchairs, walkers, or adaptive strollers.
While some of the eggs contained candy, there were ones cleverly marked with princess or car stickers that held non-edible items--a chance for children with special diets to reap the benefits of the prize in the egg rather than woefully think "I can't have this".
At first, Ellie didn't even care about the eggs. There was sand!! And sand! And did I mention, SAND!? Then the playscape. Oh how she loved to frolic, er climb and run like a wild child hyped-up on caffeine (and yet, this child doesn't get caffeine).
After her ball-tackle incident, she finally figured out that there were eggs and that the eggs belong in her basket. The eggs were also BALLS!!!!! Ellie wanted to play with the eggs. She didn't really care that each and every single egg contained a delightful temporary tattoo of "Seton Medical Center". Really? Come on! Everyone wants to have "Seton Medical Center" emblazoned on their hand. Seriously, she didn't care that anything was inside the egg. She just wanted the
While this is a park for children with All abilities, sadly, people do stare. Let's face it, my daughter looks different. She is unbelievably gorgeous and clearly most people are jealous of her beauty and spunk, but she does look like she has, well, Down syndrome. Some of my friends have kids with Ds, trachs, walkers, and other medical devices and conditions. People stare. While I would like to say it is just the children. The adults also stare and sometimes rather rudely. It happens and it can be unnerving. At this egg hunt, there were no stares. There was acceptance. We were all a part of a club. A club celebrating the awesomeness of various abilities, but abilities none-the-less and taking a moment to enjoy carefully planned event for our children. An event tailored towards all abilities.
*Notice the this hot mama isn't in any pics again? Hmmm.
More about the Play For All Abilities Park:
The park was many years in the making. Five to be exact. A park designed for all children. Typical children, children with sensory issues, children with autism, children with motor issues in wheelchairs or adaptive strollers. All children.
It is something I used to take for granted. Accessible parks that is. Until I had Ellie. Ellie has Down syndrome. She took longer to sit, to stand, to walk, and to climb than many of her typical peers. She also has sensory processing disorder. She has trouble regulating herself and is in constant motion. She needed/needs a safe place to spin, twirl, swing, and climb. They have equipment at this park that allows Ellie to do all of these things. She is afraid of water. Their water table has helped desensitize Ellie. She no longer has a meltdown if her arms, legs, and torso get wet (her face is another matter and another blog post!).
Each section of the park was carefully planned to be accessible and stimulating for all children. It is fenced in so that my wayward running Ellie Bear does not end up in the parking lot or run over by a train.
There is sand. Lots and lots of sand. Good for Ellie. Good for sensory experiences. Not so good for mama. Sand in shoes, car, clothes = laundry + vacuum + bath.
There is also a little town for pretend play, complete with traffic lights, wheelchair ramps, and side walks. Actually, this town can be used in teaching people about life skills.
The playscape is accessible to wheelchairs and it isn't very high off the ground. What that basically means is I am no longer having heart attacks and the sprouting of gray hairs when Ellie attempts to climb onto the playscape.
There are swings for all ages and medical devices. Meaning there are swings for wheelchairs, swings that offer greater support, regular swings, and baby swings. I will tell you, though, there are not enough swings. There are 7 swings total. Two of which Ellie can use. Both of which are typically occupied. This can cause Ellie Bear Meltdowns.
There are also not enough picnic tables, but that is besides the point.
If you ever happen to be in Austin or Round Rock, be sure to check out the Play for All Abilities Park. Oh and give us a call. The Bear is always up for SAND!