Friday, June 22, 2012

Inclusive play- Sensory Garden in Pune, India

Dear Colleagues,

With the efforts of Rotary Club of Pune East and Barclays Technology Centre & Bal Kalyan Sanstha, an inclusive sensory garden has been developed.

In western world there have been several attempts similar to these to give an inclusive play experience to children with all abilities.  India should consider at least one each such park in most districts to begin with and then percolate it down to children play areas in residential areas. Such a park is not just for disabled children. This enriches experiences of all children irrespective of disabilities.

Here is the news item from Times of India

TNN | Jun 21, 2012, 04.20AM IST

PUNE: The city now has its own sensory garden specifically created to be accessible and enjoyable to children with disabilities.

The 600-sq-ft garden, called the Rotary Sensory Garden, housed in Bal Kalyan Sanstha, has 10 elaborately-created spaces providing sensory opportunities which people with disabilities normally do not experience.

The garden, developed by Rotary Club of Pune East and Barclays Technology Centre in Pune, boasts of tactile flooring, a sand pit, mini pond, sound instruments, including drums and bells, a tactile panel wall, 66 varieties of plants, etc.

Minita Patil, manager, Bal Kalyan Sanstha, said, "Many European countries have sensory gardens to suit all kinds of disabilities. There are sensory gardens in India too, but they are primarily restricted to specific disabilities only. At this garden special children with various disabilities can learn and enjoy themselves."

A portion of the garden has a pond in which children can play. "One side of the pond has a stationary structure resembling a boat, and has been designed according to the special needs of children with various disabilities, including cerebral palsy," said Patil, adding that the garden was built at a cost of Rs 25 lakh.

A tactile panel wall at the entrance has different materials embedded in it. Children can touch and experience the different textures, describe the various sensations, and also investigate which material is hot, cold, soft or hard and can identify the materials by their names later.

The garden has a game of snakes and ladders and a periscope (an instrument for observing from a concealed position). "A 'magic sound instrument' is another interesting component of the garden. The user's voice travels from one end of a steel pipe and can be heard at the other end in the form of sound waves. In addition, there are 66 varieties of plants with different smells, taste and textures here. Many of these plants are scented, while some are also edible," said Patil, adding that the garden is frequented by an average of 150-200 people daily.

"Sensory gardens improve fine and gross motor skills of the user, encourage communication, stimulate sensory awareness and promote hands-on and multi-sensory learning. They also reduce aggressive behavior," she added.

Suvarna Kadam, parent of a four-year-old with mild autism, said, "My daughter loved the tactile flooring and spent considerable amount of time just exploring the different textures. The drums and bells create resonance which attracts children. Children are free to play as they like and can be themselves here, which is not possible in other gardens."

Madhavi Shahane, special educator for hard of hearing, at the C R Ranganathan School for the Deaf, brought about 60 students to the garden on Wednesday. "The garden not only helps in educating the students, but is also be a great recreation for them. Though these students suffer from partial or total inability to hear, they can feel the vibration caused by the musical instruments such as the drums and the musical tree. This brings them immense joy. It is their first visit to the garden so they are trying to understand all the features here. The next visit will be even more enjoyable," said Shahane.

Sharda Devi, mother of a 12-year-old with autism, said features such as the stationary bicycles will help children learn balancing. "The play ladder will help autistic children overcome the fear of downward motion," she observed.

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