SEPTO Looks to Enhance the Playground Experience

Credits: Deena Bell
Austin Road Assistant Principal Bryan Gilligan; Assistant Superintendent Dr. Adam Pease; Assistant Superintendent Dr. Greg Stowell; SEPTO President Maria Morris and her husband. Credits: Deena Bell
Maryellen Locker’s first-grade class gives Kevin a big push. Credits: Deena Bell
Kevin Morris with his mom and dad, Maria and Kevin Credits: Deena Bell

MAHOPAC, N.Y.— Playground time at Austin Road just got more inclusive with the addition of an adaptive swing for children with special needs.

“The swing was installed as a joint effort between the school district and our SEPTO board,” said Austin Road principal Jim Gardineer. “It will allow our playground to be more inclusive and open to children with specific needs that prohibit them from using conventional swings.”

When Special Education Parent/Teacher Organization (SEPTO) Co-President Maria Morris brought the idea of an adaptive swing to Gardineer and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Greg Stowell, they were receptive.

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“They are big advocates for inclusion,” Morris said.

The swing, which is wider than a traditional type swing, also has a full back to it.

“It is designed for children who require additional trunk support,” Morris said.

The swing has a five-point harness, much like what is found in a car seat, to prevent falls.

Morris is mom to Austin Road second grader Kevin Morris, who has cerebral palsy and epilepsy. Kevin cut the ribbon at the opening of the new swing.

“He is 8 years old and loves playgrounds as much as every elementary age child, but is limited physically in maneuvering around the playground and utilizing standard equipment,” Morris said. “Although this is just one item, it is a profound message of understanding, acceptance, and inclusion of children with adaptive needs, but still typical children. We hope that this joint effort is a starting example to the community of accepting, supporting and meeting the varying needs of our young children.”

Morris said that the wonderful thing about the swing is that it enables special needs children to enjoy the social things about the playground.

All students, not just those with special needs, were clamoring for a turn on the swing. Gardineer said that reactions of children who had never been able to use a swing in the school playground before were overwhelmingly positive.

“To say that they loved it would be an understatement,” he said. “This alone makes the swing invaluable. As principal, I would like to thank Dr. Stowell and our SEPTO leadership for making this opportunity available to our students. We welcome any and all Mahopac families to come experience and use this latest addition to our playground.”

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