Kidder Elementary summer students look forward to Brunswick’s inclusive playground

BRUNSWICK, Ohio — As the 50 students of Kidder Elementary School’s LLA Therapy Stars and Stripes program this summer took to the schoolyard on July 28, their thoughts were also on building a playground across town to Neura Park.

“When we heard about the Brunswick Inclusive Playground Project, we immediately wanted to do something to help – it was right in our wheelhouse,” said Matt Hagge, Business Development Manager for LLA Therapy, which offers speech therapy, occupational therapy, and music therapy programs to approximately 200 students throughout northeast Ohio.

“We work with students with special needs and work on their therapeutic goals in unique ways,” Hagge said of the six-week Stars and Stripes program, which has partnered with Brunswick City Schools for seven years. .

“We see firsthand how children with special needs want the opportunity to be on an equal footing, and it’s hard in school.”

The Inclusive Playground Project is the brainchild of Brunswick City Schools Intervention Specialist and Special Education Coordinator Leann Alferio.

“It just started this week and should be completed this fall,” Alferio said of the $600,000 project.

The playground’s budget and scope have recently been increased as donations from community members and local businesses continue to pour in, along with a pledge of $175,000 from the City of Brunswick.

Students in Kidder’s Stars and Stripes program wore Alferio-designed “Inclusion Matters” t-shirts and displayed signs about why the inclusive playground is important to them — messages ranging from “We can all play together” to ” We can all eat cheese balls.”

Inherent in each of the unique messages was, of course, the concept of inclusivity.

“I think the biggest misconception (with an inclusive playground) is the thought of ‘well, you’ve got a ramp. But it’s not inclusive,” Alferio said.

ALL therapy site manager Carly Trem said the students were all looking forward to playing outside and interacting with their friends. Trem said the opportunity the inclusive playground will provide for students of different abilities to be able to share in this experience is monumental.

“These kids really adore each other, and now they can play with a friend who is, for example, in a wheelchair,” Trem said. “It is enormous.”

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Harold B. McConnell