From as far back as I can remember, I spent my summers outside. With my mother being a teacher we had the chance to spend summer holidays at home. I was never bored; in fact, far from it. I usually spent my days in the pool! I've never been the biggest fan of swimming, so doing lengths was not for me. Still, it was always a great pleasure to have fun in the water, usually with my brother and my cousins. They will surely remember our jumping in the water competitions! In fact, due to my disability from cerebral palsy, I was jumping from the pool staircase while the others jumped from the springboard. Already, we were adapting!
From the first day of summer to the last, the pool was open. We enjoyed it and made our friends jealous at the beginning of the school year in September when we told them how much time we spent in the pool. We would play games like the most beautiful figures in the water contest, we’d hunt objects at the bottom of the pool, play Marco Polo – I was not the most agile, but these were activities where everything was done for pleasure, and I had so much fun that I did not realize that these activities were a little harder for me. And while playing, I developed my physical literacy in the water!
Pools are great because they are accessible to a large number of people, and activities done in the water can be very beneficial, because water limits stiffness and allows movement without impact. This may involve some challenges, however. If your child with autism does not like water, try gradually introducing them. A wetsuit can also help. Also, they often have special interest on specific things. Try including this in pool games. If your child has a motor impairment, floating objects that they can hold on to, or a life jacket, can make their experience easier and safer. Some public swimming pools have water entrance ramps, floating chairs, and lifts – be sure to ask for these things if they will improve your experience.
Here is an interesting resource to know the possible adaptations (in French).
The evenings at the park
Another thing I loved was the evenings at the park, despite the fact the early ‘90s wasn’t the best time for playgrounds. Who remembers the aluminum slides that burned our legs? And what about the soil around the equipment, in rock, sand or mulch? Not very passable for wheelchairs and strollers and I imagine we brought a lot of dirt back home. The good news is that the way we think about parks has evolved. Increasingly, flat surfaces are found in playgrounds. These often attractive and colourful surfaces are much more practical. We also find more and more swing sets that have been adapted for all.
(See photos - Parc Jean-Duceppe, in Montreal)
Here's the great example of Sacha's Park in L'Orignal, Ontario. Do you know other parks that are models? Feel free to let us know on the Inclusive physical literacy Facebook page.
Being active while playing
It must be remembered that moving and being active does not always mean organized sport. In summer, so many opportunities to move exist. Water games, playgrounds, swimming pool, yards, or camping, the important thing is to enjoy the warm season to get away from the screen and absorb a dose of vitamin D!