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The Special Care Center in Abu Dhabi, an accredited organization for Disabled Care and Rehabilitation, is seeking proposals from experienced engineering companies for the design of a playground that should be appropriate for children with various disabilities. Therefore, the Alta Vista team decided to carry on the project and design an adequate playground for those children. Keeping in mind that similar problems have been resolved and similar products have been designed before, which means that we should find out what is already known about the subject. Thus, further research on various aspects of the problem should be done as it will provide us with a better understanding to the problem and help us develop the conceptual design. Moreover, we will be discussing the importance of playgrounds for disabled and normal children and specifically how can playgrounds prepare children for the rest of their lives?
The desire to play and enjoy games is a natural desire in all children no matter how rich or poor their families are or how much they can move independently, hear, talk or see. This is supported by Wilson ; “All children and young people need to play. The impulse to play is innate. Play is a biological and psychological and social necessity, and is fundamental to the healthy development and well being of individuals and communities.” Playing times are precious and valuable for all ages not only children, as those memories are unforgettable. If you ask any adult about a favorite play memory from their childhood, they will not only remember what they did but they will also remember how they felt . Well, it is every child’s right to play and feel the equality. Moreover, David Lloyd George  supported this by saying; “The right to play is a childââ‚¬â„¢s first claim on the community. Play is natureââ‚¬â„¢s training for life. No community can infringe that right without doing enduring harm to the minds and bodies of its citizens.” We believe that the above information is valuable for our design project as it highlights some important points; 1) the structure of the playground should be interesting enough and enjoyable to be sketched in those children’s memories. 2) The playground should not be special for disabled children only but accessible for all children, as this might affect their psychological status by feeling unique and discriminated from others.
The most obvious characteristic of playgrounds is that they provide a break from the day’s routine. Taking breaks are considered essential for people of all ages and in all fields as it helps increasing the productivity and alertness of the brain. This was supported by the experimental research conducted by , as the results found that recall is improved when learning is spaced rather than presented all at once. Moreover, physical activities in playground where supported by [2, 3] to increase fitness, improve attitudes and support learning. Those activities do not only support education, but they also support children’s health; by reducing inactivity which is associated with obesity, which causes health problems such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol [2, 3]. Thus, playgrounds play an essential role on children’s physical health, and physical health plays an important role in children’s education. As a result, providing special physical activities that are suitable for disabled children and accessible for normal children should be considered while carrying out our design project.
The majority of existing literature has focused on modifying or changing the equipments of playgrounds to suit children with special needs . However, this is not what is supposed to be done in order to implement inclusion in playgrounds, because these discriminative practices will often make it difficult for disabled children to join in . What is really meant by “Disabled Children” are those who experience discrimination on the ground of their impairment . This is supported by , the social model approach developed by disabled people in 1981, “Impairment is what we have, Disability is what we experience.” Thus, teacher mediated interventions and ideas for developing activities that do not require significant environmental changes are required . Furthermore, attention should be shifted to the methodologies that might be used in the development of those children’s social skills as most of those children exhibit social skills deficits. According to , toys that encourage social interactions rather than solitary play should be provided, in order to foster cooperative interactions between children in playgrounds. Therefore, developmentally appropriate toys and materials should be designed and chosen with care, as to develop the useful skills required to prepare those children for their adulthood [4, 6]. Playgrounds initiate the development of two kinds of essential and required skills for disabled children [3, 7]; 1) motor and physical skills, which are helpful for their fitness and health, 2) Soft skills, are those which complement hard skills (part of a person’s IQ). We can conclude that these skills are beneficial for those children’s education. Thus, we should be able to know how to develop these skills and through what kinds of games while conducting our design project?
While playing in playgrounds, children do not realize that they are building skills and coordination while they are busy having fun . Play involving balls, running, popping bubbles, or building things are great methods to build motor skills. In fact, all verbs usually associated with childhood games, such as; climb, walk, kick, slide, skip, balance, pull, swing, crawl, and etc, also happen to be activities that improve physical motor skills . Some activities, climbing structures and riding bicycles, help in building muscles and increasing fitness, which makes the students healthier and more active . This is important for the students in the Special Care Center, as disabled children do not only have mental problems but they also suffer from physical problems and need an opportunity to activate their muscles and increase their motor skills.
Soft skills help children in building their character as well as shaping and refining their personalities for those coming adult years . Each and every game in a playground has a purpose and every game a child plays in a playground teaches him a lesson. We will be discussing the most significant and vital lessons that are tough by playing and improve children’s soft skills. See-saws give the opportunity to interact with another child and develop balance and coordination . Climbing a slide for the first time can be a great confidence builder and help children learn to take small risks which increase their courage . This is also depending on how friendly and trusting the environment is, as it gives the kids a chance to put themselves on the line a little bit. This teaches them that if they do a mistake, it is not the end of the world . Moreover, playgrounds can teach children how to cope when things do not work out their way, set goals, work toward a common goal and maintain their dignity . The vital part of playing is learning that they cannot always reach what they want. There are rules on the playground, just like there are rules in the real world . In order to get along or to succeed, kids have got to understand and abide by those rules. Therefore, children have to learn patience, how to let out their frustration without harming themselves or others . No one wins every time, the playground is not the only place to learn that but it provides an opportunity for it. Once children learn it on the playgrounds they can apply it in other places in their lives. They can transfer the skills from the playground to real life. Children learn how to navigate through the development of social and emotional skills, which increases their problem solving skills later in life . Finally, the playground offers children different ways to find themselves through trial and error and this is how they learn and succeed in their future lives . It also offers them with an chance to branch out of their comfort zone, test things out, and experiment with new habits, behaviors and traits. It gives them a chance to take a deep breath and find the courage to dive in and let go of mistakes . When it comes down to it, it is not an issue of learning how to deal with failure but how to deal with success . The playground can help disabled kids feel more confident about who they are, their abilities and what they are good at. So while conducting our design we should emphasize on the importance of equality between the disabled children in the Special Care Center and normal children.
In conclusion, this background reading has provided the Alta Vista team with significant information that will aid and support the design project. In order to have a successful design, we should consider the layout or the structure of the design, by making it colorful and interesting enough for children to explore. Moreover, the structure or the design of the playground should not be special for handicapped kids only. The playground should be accessible by both disabled and normal children. As playing together gets children to focus more on what they have in common and less on their differences. When they have an environment that focuses more on their similarities, it is going to be more inclusive and respectful of individual differences . Furthermore, before designing each game in a playground a list of what children can learn or benefit by playing in this game should be planned. In order to be able to provide all the necessary skills required by those children in their coming up future and support their education and success.
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