The latest feature at Gilcrease Brothers Park in the Northwest Valley is the first of its kind in Las Vegas: The Hunter Green Sensory Wall is designed for children with autism.
The idea sprang from a day that Las Vegas City Councilor Michele Fiore spent early in her tenure visiting parks in the city’s northwest. Two of Fiore’s granddaughters – identical 5-year-old twins – are autistic.
“It’s very convenient,” Fiore said. “We’re going to put it there and I hope they come. It is a big park.
Interactive yellow signs with gears and wheels are mounted on the wall, with different shapes and textures. The wall is on the same carpet as the slides and other play equipment in the park.
Features like sensory walls are becoming increasingly popular and can help children with autism who suffer from sensory processing disorders, said Wendy Fournier, president of the National Autism Association. Children with this disorder can be “quickly overwhelmed by a chaotic environment with loud or sudden noises, many people moving around, many different voices and too many visual inputs,” she said.
“It can be difficult to separate all of these things from each other, and the collective noise becomes too much to deal with,” Fournier added. “Using sensory objects can help them focus on one thing and become emotionally regulated again so they can relax and have fun. ”
The Sensory Play Center cost $ 13,700 and was funded by the City of Las Vegas Home Construction Tax Fund.
In 2008, another park in Las Vegas became the first in the city with a fully-compliant Americans with Disabilities playground, complete with wheelchair ramps and play areas. Centennial Hills Park is built on a three-level hill accessible by ramps and bridges, said Margaret Kurtz, information manager in Las Vegas.
Fiore said she wanted to expand the recreational activities available to children with special needs to other parks. The city councilor said she plans to poll voters for their views.
“It’s awesome,” Fiore said of the first sensory panel. “But it’s not enough.”
Contact Jamie Munks at [email protected] or 702-383-0340. Follow @Journo_Jamie_ on Twitter.