Boston Parents Paper

The Next Wave of Recess Renaissance

By James V. Major

At The Guild for Human Services in Concord, the challenge of designing an accessible, inclusive playground was not only accommodating differences in physical ability but age as well. The Guild, which serves individuals with intellectual disabilities, autism and behavioral/mental health challenges, operates a school and residential program for 85 youth ages 6-22 and a residential program for 55 adults.

“An accessible, inclusive playground is not simply a place where children can enjoy themselves, it is an essential tool to practice physical skills, resiliency, cooperation, social interaction, and many other competencies that have lifelong impact,” says Guild CEO Amy C. Sousa.

While The Guild has long offered a modern gym and fitness room, it lacked an outdoor playground. When the Guild moved from Waltham to Concord in November 2016, the new space and a $50,000 grant from the Belmont Savings Bank Foundation created the opportunity for building a playground to meet Guild students’ and resident’s needs.

Two Guild occupational therapists, Nicole Anulewicz and Lindsay Kirk, took the lead on choosing everything from swings accommodating users in wheelchairs to climbing structures low and safe enough for individuals with motor-planning constraints. One extra-wide slide provides horizontal sensory rollers to help users orient themselves, and a spinner allows younger, smaller or less physically able users to face inward and feel supported.

“I think everyone has enjoyed the playground,” Kirk says. “Many times, our students can’t verbally tell us that they enjoy it, but they are telling us by the fact that they don’t want to leave.”

Read the full Boston Parents Paper story.

Learn more about the Belmont Savings Bank Foundation Playground.