Many of our students face unique challenges to physical fitness. Studies have shown that children and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder are more overweight and sedentary then their typical peers. Many face problems with balance, coordination, flexibility, and motor planning than children without ASD, which also can lead to a lack of physical activity. Still others struggle with confidence in trying new activities or engaging in team activities.
Crossroads School is strongly committed to making our new outdoor recreation space function as an extension of our incredible building where students will generalize skills acquired in the classroom (and vice versa) and ultimately improve quality of life across the board.
In specific terms, our multi-use rec space will be used for:
- Treatment sessions by our occupational and physical therapists leading to improved fine and gross motor skills, coordination skills, body awareness and motor planning.
- Individual and team sports facilitated by our adapted physical education teacher leading to better physical fitness, confidence, comradery and social skills.
- Rewards and reinforcers by teachers and ABA counselors. Playing outside will be a huge motivator to maintaining positive behaviors and rewarding students for achievements. For the child who loves to play hoops, being able to “earn a session” on the court will be a significant incentive.
- Free and creative play by all the students.
All outdoor spaces will be designed to meet the needs of students with physical and cognitive delays and include equipment that challenges, stimulates, and engages them all. The equipment and surfacing will be ADA compliant. Adaptive seating for swings and collaborative play items such as a see-saw will meet our current and future accessibility needs. The layout of the structures provides more space than is required to maintain student safety. Additionally, the poured-in-place rubber will be poured in different colors to create paths and safety zones to help students safely navigate the play-spaces.
The outdoor space will be used as a part of the students’ formal educational plans. Data will be collected as a means of monitoring progress. For instance, if a student has PT objectives, the outdoor space could be the environment where the activities are worked on with data collected and analyzed. In other less formal situations, the space will serve as a highly reinforcing location on our campus that our students will have access to throughout the day. Each student’s individual programming allows for him or her to select activities or locations around the school to enjoy after completing a designated amount of school work. Data will be collected in these instances also and will indicate how many students are requesting the outdoor spaces and the impact.
The playground and other outdoor play spaces will also provide a location to generalize and maintain skills previously acquired in an indoor structured setting. For example, previously met PT objectives such as endurance skills can be maintained by playing outdoors on the playground for extended amounts of time without the need for a break. Another example may be sports skills taught in gym class can be generalized outside playing basketball on the half court. Generalization and maintenance data are collected as rigorously as all data for new programming implemented in the classrooms.
Qualitatively, the staff will share the joy of playing outside with students and observe their playfulness, spontaneous speech, collaboration with peers, and growth in their imaginative play.