In search of a more accessible playground for my son with Pompe

This columnist's son, who uses a wheelchair, lacks playtime options

Keara Engle avatar

by Keara Engle |

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Typically, when we think of playgrounds, we envision children running around, having the time of their lives. But this isn’t always the case. For my 5-year-old son, Cayden, it’s a bit hard to enjoy the playground.

Cayden is in a wheelchair, so sometimes he has trouble accessing playground equipment. His infantile-onset Pompe disease has left him with weakened muscles, a symptom that most children with this form of Pompe disease experience.

Don’t get me wrong, we still make sure Cayden has a good time at the park, but it’s not the easiest thing to do. He enjoys the swings, so that’s the first thing he’ll ask for when we go. Most parks have baby swings he can still fit into. But at the rate he’s been growing, I’m not sure how long that will last.

One playground in our town has an accessible swing. Cayden loves going to this park! The thing is, though, there’s only one accessible swing. It’s a popular park, so sometimes other children are playing on the swing. I never make a fuss about it. Instead, I take the time to explain to Cayden that he must wait his turn, which is something we’ve been working on with him lately.

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A 5-year-old boy sits in an accessible swing at a local park. The swing is green with a yellow safety bar that extends in front of the boy and over his shoulders.

Cayden, 5, enjoys an accessible swing at a local park. (Photo by Keara Engle)

Closed for construction

Sadly, the park with the accessible swing — one of the older parks here — will be under construction for quite some time. The equipment is pretty outdated, so our borough decided to renovate it. While I’m grateful they’re taking the time to ensure the park is safe, it sucks that it will be closed until all of the construction is finished.

There is another playground at Cayden’s elementary school, where he attends preschool. It’s smaller and has only a few swings. Since it’s meant for elementary-aged children, none are baby swings, meaning that Cayden can’t get on them.

Because this is the same elementary school that Cayden will attend for kindergarten later this year, his preschool teacher had a discussion with the principal and other staff in the school district. She voiced her concerns about Cayden being unable to play with his classmates too much during recess because he’s in a wheelchair, while all of the other kids run around and play on the equipment.

Thankfully, Cayden’s preschool teacher got the school district to agree to install an accessible swing for him. I was so happy to hear this news! Now I no longer have to worry about whether or not my child will be able to have fun outside at recess.

I wish there was more accessible equipment at every playground. Something like a merry-go-round that we could strap his wheelchair onto would be cool. Or even a seesaw with seats that have a high back and a five-point harness. I’ve never seen equipment like this, but when I imagine it in my mind, it doesn’t seem impossible to make.

It’s almost as if disabled children aren’t thought about much when it comes to playground equipment. This makes me a bit sad. They are children, too, and they like to have fun just like other children their age. I hope that in the future more playgrounds will offer equipment to children like my son who are in wheelchairs. For now, I’m just grateful for the limited options we have.

Note: Pompe Disease News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pompe Disease News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Pompe disease.


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