All children learn differently. For some it can be difficult to keep pace both physically and academically with their classmates. But SEN learners deserve the same standard of education as everyone else. While it may take a fresh approach to engage them with learning through play, it can prove hugely beneficial in the long term.

Designing a playground for SEND learners

From autism to dyslexia, the playground can open up a whole new world of opportunities for children with special needs. The extra stimulation provided by playing outdoors encourages SEN learners to respond to ideas they might struggle to handle in classrooms. Nurseries which take the learning abilities of all their children into account when designing their playground. They will notice a marked improvement across the board.

It’s important that SEN children don’t feel segregated from their classmates during active play. School playground equipment that allows children to learn and explore together ensures that it includes everyone. Children have a right to safe, inclusive play regardless of their background or ability. But achieving this level of inclusion takes dedication and time.

When it comes to the playground there are certain aspects that need to take precedence when involving SEN learners. Mobility might be an issue for some, while for others loud noises or bright lights can be painful. Providing different areas for different activities can be the perfect way to incorporate inclusive play into your playground.

Attempting to support a diverse range of disabilities can prove tricky. But with the right mindset, you can ensure everyone has the ideal space to learn and play. The first thing to decide is whether your existing playground provides for both physical and mental limitations of SEN learners. In the case of physical disability, this means determining whether your play area is accessible to wheelchair users. Also, whether it’s accessible to those who have restricted movement. Our designers always take care to ensure there are no areas that a wheelchair user could not access.

Children who suffer from conditions such as hypersensitivity also need careful consideration.

In particular, those with autism may struggle with large, noisy crowds and will benefit from quiet zones where they can recuperate. Including a sensory garden or quiet zone in any designs will give them the chance to socialise in a calmer environment. Outdoor Classrooms can act as a seclusion zone for these children, without completely removing them from the playground.

Playgrounds don’t have be exclusively used for break time either. Schools can help SEN children get to grips with complicated subjects, by taking them outside to let off steam. Through outdoor learning, children can discover how motion works, visualise numbers and numeracy more easily and become inspired to write stories or draw pictures of what they’ve experienced. Sensory and Nature areas are great too for introducing textures and bringing them into an environment that inspires creativity.

For those with special needs, they can also take things one step further. 
Trim trails are ideal for developing gross motor skills, developing upper body strength and provide a safe environment for children with conditions such as dyspraxia.
Then there’s equipment that encourages role play and cooperative play, such as performance stages and mud kitchens. These are just as important because they provide children with a stress-free environment to share and play alongside one another. For children who struggle with socialising, this can make all the difference – helping them make friends in fun and exciting ways.
In order to get the most from your designs, it’s a good idea to consult the children on what they feel is most required. Some may just want more opportunities to create and explore, while others will want to be able to join in with their friends’ activities regardless of their mobility. Taking onboard every suggestion before you begin planning is key and can help you identify what changes to make.
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