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The Sensations TheraFun Playground is a Safe and Exciting Environment

By S. Mathur

Like so many other good ideas, the Sensations TheraFun playground was the product of necessity. Owner Jay Perkins recalls that "We needed a place where our daughter could have therapeutic play that supplemented her visits to an Occupational Therapists clinic. She also needed a playground where she could learn, grow and succeed. It didn't exist so we built it."

Traditional playgrounds with crowds and social competitiveness can be discouraging places for children with special needs. The sensory overload can provoke inappropriate behaviors, or prompt a child to shut down. Yet multisensory activity is vital for all children, Perkins explains: "Kids (and adults) with sensory integration challenges need a steady diet of sensory input. This can come in the form of swinging, spinning, climbing, zipping, jumping, etc. When healthy sensory input is occurring, the child's body can then become "regulated" which helps in their daily living activities."

The Sensations TheraFun playground has a zip line, trampolines, climbing walls, suspended (therapeutic) swings and a multisensory quiet room with lighted equipment for calming activities. The darkened room with with lights for kids to play with has a calming effect and encourages imaginative play. Its therapeutic effects, says Perkins, help children work through the difficulties they face in daily living: "Lights, fiber optics, ball pit and projector have a calming effect on a child where imagination can take over. When in the this room, hopefully a child can overcome some of the issues that can overwhelm them."

The TheraFun playground provides a safe and exciting environment for children on the Autism Spectrum, with Sensory Processing Disorders, ADHD, Down's Syndrome, Asperger's Syndrome and all children who need sensory recreation. There are sports leagues and camps, complete with jerseys, trophies, and therapeutic coaching. Spaces can be reserved for birthday parties and sleepovers. There is an art room for creative activities like painting, drawing, crafts, writing and more. A full kitchen can be used for cooking classes and camps. The retail store offers sensory-motor products, books and in-home therapeutic tools and toys.

There are too few such centers to meet the needs of the millions of children with special needs. While the biggest obstacle to starting one is the cost, the rewards for parents and children are enormous. As a parent, Perkins understands that: "When a special needs child arrives, they realize they are in an accepting environment where the struggles in the outside world are lessened. they are not judged, laughed at or ridiculed. They can learn to play without the stress of "doing it right". They can play successfully and have fun without having to compete. Typically developing children and special needs children play together making it a truly inclusive playground. Parents who often struggle in the general community with their child's challenges can relax and know that they are in a safe place where their child is succeeding accomplishing things in a grand way. Miracles happen at Sensations every day".

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