Wednesday, March 13, 2013
McConnell Elementary parent Heloise Bean spent days watching her 5-year-old son scramble around the school’s outdated playground. He does what he can, she said, but Landyn isn’t able to access it like the other kids because he has no hands and no feet.
After a life-altering bout with bacterial meningitis when he was just 15 months old, Landyn lost his hands and feet to the infection and had to relearn everything, from how to eat to how to talk to how to move around. He had just started walking when he contracted the infection.
“He’s OK, but there are challenges,” said Phillip Bean, Landyn’s dad.
Landyn has been able to overcome countless obstacles — the fact that he is even still alive is a miracle since the doctors gave him a 10 percent chance of living after he became sick.
Today, he moves around quickly and easily at home, with or without his prosthetic legs, and prefers not to use the prosthetics for his hands as he says it is easier to play without them.
At school, Landyn is in a general curriculum kindergarten class, on a first grade reading level and can even write by using both of his arms, though it remains a difficult task. Plus, he’s a whiz on an iPad.
“He amazes me. ... He has come so far,” said his mom, Heloise Bean. “My kid’s going to get somewhere, I promise you that.”
On the playground, however, he must be watched carefully by an aid as he plays. Heloise Bean said she would often get calls or comments from the school that he had fallen on the playground that day.
Though, even if he could access the playground as easily as the other kids, the equipment is extremely out of date and not exactly compliant with American Society for Testing and Materials International and Consumer Product Safety Commission standards, according to David Hill, regional sales manager for GameTime, a company that specializes in inclusive playground design. The truth is, Landyn needs a more inclusive place to play, along with every other child at McConnell, whether or not they have disabilities, Heloise Bean said.
“I sat and watched for two or three days and I thought, ‘You know what, something’s got to give,’” she said.
She joined forces with the school to raise money for a new and inclusive playground. A group of teachers and parents meets regularly to discuss and find ways to raise funds for the $115,000 project. People and businesses from the community have already donated money and committed time to the project, and now the group is waiting to hear back about some pending grants.
Not only will the new playground, designed by GameTime, offer a much more accessible place for kids with disabilities to play, it will open up a whole new world to the parents and kids who use it, said Amy Thomson, exceptional education behavioral analyst for Hamilton County Schools.
“The project became bigger as we realized we had the opportunity to make the statement … that kids with disabilities can do the same things as other kids — they just need to do it a little differently,” she said. “We have the opportunity to spread a message of inclusion and acceptance that will hopefully be with all the children as they grow up.”
The new playground’s design is meant to facilitate inclusive play, which involves physical, cognitive, sensory, social and communicative aspects of interaction, said Hill. The current playground has multiple areas of noncompliance, from the possibility of head entrapment to the lack of safety surfacing in order to minimize the impact of a fall, he added.
The plan is to hopefully raise the money needed for the upgrade in time to set up the new playground for the 2013-2014 school year, said Thomson.
The setup will be a community-involved process, and the playground will be open to the community once it is built.