Reinventing the Playground with BYO Recreation and the Jacksonville School for Autism

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BYO Recreation works with Educators and Specialist to create an enriched playground for children with autism.

Adaptive playground design demonstrates JSA's focus on group play.

Adaptive playground design demonstrates JSA's focus on group play.

Something for everyone is the only approach to successful playground design.

When the Jacksonville School for Autism (JSA) needed a new playground they turned to the experienced staff at BYO Recreation to design an outdoor play space that would meet the needs of their unique student population. Together, JSA educators and BYO design experts worked hand in hand to create a dynamic play space fit for their students of all ages. BYO Recreation came to believe so strongly in the JSA mission that they gave a $10,000 in kind donation of equipment and services to help JSA fund their playground.

At first glance JSA’s playground looks like any other with multiple slides, swings and climbing equipment but despite its unassuming appearance, each detail was carefully selected to provide maximum play and educational value. From the beginning, the goal was to create a playground that reflected the skills the teachers and specialists at JSA believed was important to their students.

“Every part of this playground was designed specifically with the children’s needs in mind,” Darrell Arvin, the BYO consultant who worked on the JSA project explained. “We went through several drafts and had to work to find ways to make it simple to supervise the children and encourage group play while satisfying their need for independence.”

Constant student supervision was a huge priority for JSA that at first seemed to be at odds with student needs. Like many schools, JSA was reluctant to include tunnels into their playground design because they allow children to be out of site; however, the staff also knew that many of their students need access to enclosed spaces. The BYO staff came back with a design that included a tunnel with a series of clear panels, allowing the children to receive the stimulation they need without compromising safety.

Children with autism tend to be extremely independent, so JSA educators requested that the playground encourage cooperative, rather than independent play. The BYO design team included a side by side double slide, seesaw and tire swing to encourage group play to develop naturally between students. The design team also eschewed overhead activities, like monkey bars, because many JSA students lacked the muscle tone to be successful. Instead, they included a range of climbers that required both upper and lower body components so that students developed strength and coordination without excessive frustration.

Ultimately, they created a playground that serves as cornerstone for inclusive design that features an exceptional range of equipment and adaptive play spaces. “Any child would have fun on this playground.” Darrell Arvin explained, “Something for everyone is the only approach to successful playground design and that’s really what we do here.”

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Noah Margulies
BYO Recreation Inc.
+1 8008535316 Ext: 404
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