by Mary Palacios, Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist, and Certified Parks and Recreation Professional, Broward County Parks and Recreation
Are you aware of the plethora of amazing things that happen when you go outside and visit one of your local parks, a place where you can reenergize, socialize, and realize your potential? Parks are a place where you and your special needs child or adult, or family member can exercise, dance, socialize, create, learn a new skill, and express yourselves. You and your entire family will benefit from a day away from the stress at home, from work, and can find many free things to do to keep you engaged and healthy!
While at a park, you and your entire family, and extended family, can engage in outlets that can help you to deal with life stressors, increase your fine or gross motor skills, provide opportunities for increased socialization, improve your self-image, improve your fitness and overall wellness, enhance self determination, create opportunities for creative expression, and improve life skills. Engaging in any of these outlets will help you to have an improved quality of life, and with inclusion as a reality, all can benefit!
Many family gatherings happen at a park, where you can recreate with friends, family members, siblings, and more. For children, playing outside at a park is essential for their development. Lack of time outdoors is a known factor to the increase in obesity, deficiency in vitamin D, and even shown to have negative impacts to one’s mental health. Practice some deep breathing or stretching at a park, and see if your tension diminishes, and mood improves.
As you visit a park with nature center or natural area you can explore and learn about the nature and history of the environment. You could recreate by taking a walk, riding a bike, or participate in outlets such as camping, horseback riding, having a barbeque, fishing or even kayaking. You could also go to a local concert or festival and learn about the culture and diversity. You can visit resource tables and learn about community services and programs.
7 Steps for Successful Inclusion to occur at a park:
1. If a program modification is needed for you or a family member, contact the park facility ahead of time for the process (Do you require sign language interpreting, or materials in a different format?)
2. Visit the park ahead of time to see the area, and plan where you are going to meet, and what you plan to do (Do you need an accessible pathway, a shelter, an open space, etc.)
3. Attend a community event or program, held by your local municipality or county park, (festival, concert, organized nature walks, other). Review events planned for accessibility and adaptation needs, and best location for you and your group to meet.
4. When you hold a family event at a park, keep in mind the ages of all participants, what amenities are needed and available, shading, time of day, predicted weather, and if there is a fee to attend.
5. Learn and talk about the benefits of recreating together and participating in an inclusive activity at a park.
6. If adapted equipment is needed, purchase or make the equipment ahead of time.
7. Engage all family members and any needed care providers in the planning process.
6 Benefits of Inclusion at a Park:
1. Improved fine or gross motor skills, and new skills to practice with a family member.
2. Increased opportunities for socialization to occur.
3. Improve your overall fitness and encourage each other to work on fitness and health goals.
4. You can develop a new interest or hobby that you can do with a family member.
5. The entire family unit can recreate together, participating or as a spectator.
6. Improved quality of life, and improved mental health.
See you and your family at a nearby park, reenergizing, socializing, and realizing your potential!
Broward County Parks and Recreation, Special Populations Programs, created over 35 years ago, provides inclusive programs where individuals with disabilities, and a friend or family member, can participate in programs including learning about gardening, how to fly a kite, recycled art, learn various sports, and engage in wellness and fitness programs. These programs are offered at Broward County Parks and local Municipalities throughout Broward County and are offered for individuals with disabilities ages 6 and older. Programs are offered for individuals with a visual impairment, a physical disability, an intellectual or developmental disability, as well as programs for veterans, and seniors.
For more information contact Special Populations Manager, Mary Palacios, C.T.RS., C.P.R.P., email@example.com or call (954) 357-8170, TTY 954-537-2844. https://www.broward.org/Parks/Pages/ SpecialPopulations.asp