My younger sister, Daisy, has serious special needs. Compared to typical kids she struggles cognitively and, sometimes, physically because of an arbitrary mix up in her chromosomes. Essentially, a lot about her is different from a typical child. However, one trait that exemplifies the similarities between her and anybody else is that she likes the playground. Just to clarify, she does not like all playgrounds; she likes Magical Bridge Playground. The structures in this playground are specifically designed so all people, no matter their needs or differences, can have fun and play together. It appears that Daisy sincerely enjoys it there.
I would love to document Daisy’s excitement for the playground definitively. Unfortunately, she is not very communicative which makes it difficult to interpret her emotions accurately. I will avoid absolutes and instead focus on inferences and deductions because conclusive statements on my sister’s emotions are inherently unreliable and biased. All I can do is explain my observations and the thought processes that lead to my conclusions.
Daisy appears to like the playground. When we drive up to the parking lot, she does not struggle to stay in the car, like she does at other public places. When I ask her if she wants to go to Magical Bridge she responds with a smile instead of the usual whining. When we are at the playground she is far more engaged and interested than she is in any other public setting.
My best guess is that Daisy likes the playground because when she enters the fence, people do not profusely stare like they do in other public places. She probably likes it there because she can actively participate in the majority of the playground activities without supervision or assistance from a teacher or aide. Perhaps it is because Daisy can interact with her peers in a fun and relaxed environment. Essentially, she likes the Magical Bridge Playground because when she is there, she can just be herself; this is the beauty of inclusivity. Even though Daisy is far from typical, the Magical Bridge Playground gives her a public place to enjoy herself like any other kid.
I perfectly understand the urge to question the efficacy of places devoted to ensuring inclusivity. It is completely natural to doubt the new and unprecedented, like Magical Bridge Playground. I have no illusions to the extent of influence a playground wields. No, it will not alter the many important policy issues that face the special needs community. However, the Magical Bridge Playground makes my sister happy, and she deserves that. Everyone, no matter their abilities, deserves to have fun at the playground.
Kathleen Gaffney is a rising senior at Palo Alto High School. She has a younger sister, Daisy, with severe special needs. Kathleen interned with the Magical Bridge Foundation for the summer of 2016. In collaboration with three teens and their families, Kathleen helped to create this video about why #MySisterMatters.
About Magical Bridge Foundation
Magical Bridge Foundation furthers the promise of Palo Alto’s Magical Bridge Playground by advocating for and creating inclusive and innovative playgrounds in other communities. Led by Magical Bridge Playground founder and visionary, Olenka Villarreal, and co-founders Jill Asher and Kris Loew, the formation of Magical Bridge Foundation is responding to the global need for innovative and inclusive parks. We are pouring our seven years of research, fundraising, development, design, and construction strategies into building Magical Bridge Playgrounds across the nation.
If you are interested in bringing a Magical Bridge Playground to your community, kindly contact Olenka Villarreal at firstname.lastname@example.org or Jill Asher at email@example.com.