Sensory playground benefits autistic children

September 28, 2012 3:04:21 PM PDT
The sights, the sounds, the vibrating train - the new 16,000-square-foot playground in Chappaqua, New York is a sensory wonderland designed to stimulate all five senses.

It's called WeeZee World and was created by Louise Weadock, whose nickname is Weezee.

"With the hundred sensory items we have here at WeeZee, kids will increase and improve academic performance, improve athletic coordination, and make a lot of friends along the way," Weadock said.

Kids run around freely and explore the sensory playground; it's for any child age 12 months to 12 years, but it's also for kids with autism.

That may surprise parents who can barely hug or touch their autistic children. Many kids on the spectrum of autism have a tough time with sensory input. They may over react or underreact. It can make day-to-day life an incredible challenge.

Mario and Laura Carastro have two children with autism. Their son Brian could barely stand the tag on his shirt.

"It's more than tantrum," Laura Carastro explained. "It's like fear, and he has to get that object off of him."

This is often called sensory processing disorder. It's not an official medical diagnosis, and the treatments vary. For some kids, a place like this would be sensory overload. But for others, it can desensitize and lessen the response.

"Even touching the blocks would irritate him," Mario Carastro said. "He would get very upset. Now he's running into them, and he's diving on things. It's actually, it's like it went away."

Dr. Asma Jamil Sadiq, director of child development at Beth Israel Medical Center, says with parental supervision, a sensory playground can help some autistic children adapt.

"Gradually, the same response doesn't elicit the same kind of exaggerated response," Sadiq said. "In fact, the child gets used to it."

The basic membership for that sensory gym for one child is 75 dollars to join, and then 150 dollars a month. That is not something that would be covered by insurance. Any child can go there just for fun, but if your child has autism, it can't hurt to check with their doctor first.

CLICK HERE for more on WeeZee World.

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