Special Needs Parks and Playgrounds in Maryland
Since our son JB was diagnosed with Autism, life for us has changed in many ways. At almost six our son is non-verbal, and this year received an additional diagnosis of Sensory Processing Disorder. A trip to the park is always an adventure for us. Not only do we have to worry about how JB interacts with other children at the playground, we have the additional worry of making sure it’s a fit. In our home state of Maryland, there are a few parks that cater to families like ours, for kids with special needs. Check out some of the local parks in Maryland.
Hadley’s Park – Potomac, Maryland
Moms on a mission can achieve some amazing things, that’s exactly with Hadley’s mom Shelley Kramm did when she decided to get a park built where her daughter – who has cerebral palsy – could play alongside other children. In 1996 Kramm established the non-profit organization Hadley’s Park, Inc. with the purpose of building that park. Kramm successfully raised $750,000 and in 1999 the original Hadley’s Park opened – it was the first playground of its kind in the state. The facility came complete with high-specification accessible play equipment such as swings, seesaws and slides, plus wheelchair-friendly surfaces, and a wildflower meadow for a sensory experience. Kramm has since gone on to help other communities in the U.S. build similar inclusive parks.
There are several other Hadley’s Parks designed by Shelley Kramm in Maryland. If you live near one of these parks be sure to check them out.
- Damascus, MD The Damascus Friend-ship
- Easton, MD Togetherness Island
- Germantown, MD Austins Inspiration
- North Bethesda, MD Noah’s Ark
- Rockville, MD Hadley and Friends Playground
- Washington, D.C. The Speedway at The Arc
Opportunity Park at Allen Pond Park – Bowie, Maryland
Residents of the City of Bowie has a gem in Opportunity Park at Allen Pond Park. Locals gave the park its name due to the accessible-to-all experiences it has to offer. There are two playgrounds at Allen Pond Park and both offer lots to explore. The larger playground features a sprawling piece of equipment that is mostly low to the ground with lots of entry/exit points, including small slides and easy-to-climb stairs. Standalone equipment found near the big playground includes a large slide, a fire/police set of steering wheels on walls, monkey-bar-type rings, a cute pair of stone turtle sculptures, and four bucket and two regular swings. The smaller playground is geared to toddlers and boasts a four-piece (stationary) train, a clubhouse with slide, two bucket swings, a small sand area, and a low-to-the-ground structure with three slides. The surfaces at both playgrounds are a combo of woodchips and a rubbery surface.
Angel Park – Perry Hall, Maryland
Right in our back yard, over 4,000 volunteers helped build a playground that will accommodate all children, including those with disabilities, in Perry Hall. Angel Park in Perry Hall was a labor of love for Kelli and Andy Szczybor after the loss of their baby boy, Ryan. From a sad origin, a bright and life-affirming idea emerged – to build a place for laughter, activity, and fun, for families and friends throughout the surrounding neighborhoods.
Honorary Mention – Access-Ability Sailing, Downtown Sailing Center
While this isn’t a park, I had to mention the sailing event hosted by the Downtown Sailing Center in Baltimore. Two years ago my family participated in a free event with Pathfinders for Autism that allowed our son to participate in a sailing experience. My husband and son rode with other families but they did offer the chance to sail with your child and one adult as well. The Downtown Sailing Center offers individuals with disabilities the opportunity to sail one or two Saturdays each month from April-August. To learn more visit their website – www.downtownsailing.org
For a full listing of accessible parks in Maryland visit here.
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