A PLAY zone for children with autism was officially opened at a Sunderland school to mark its 10th anniversary.
For more than two years Columbia Grange School, in Washington, has been fund-raising and building to create the £200,000 state-of-the-art play area, which will be available to all children with autism across the city.
The outdoor project was so large it was carried out in three phases and the third and final phase was finished in time to coincide with the Oxclose Road special school’s anniversary.
A whole day of celebrations, including a funfair, was held at the school, which caters for primary aged pupils with special needs, mostly autism, to mark the opening of the Discovery park and the anniversary.
Lesley Mavin, senior teacher at the school, said: “The play area is outstanding, it is absolutely wonderful. We took some of the children out to try it and the pleasure on their faces was just amazing.
“It will also be used all year round by staff and children as a great learning environment.”
Mrs Mavin said a huge amount of fund-raising has gone on to pay towards the play area and it has been a whole community effort.
She said: “In the past parents had expressed on a number of occasions the difficulties they were experiencing when taking their children to public places such as parks and other play areas. Difficulties were caused through the children’s lack of understanding of social rules around turn-taking and waiting in a queue, it is hard work for them.
“This way our children will be able to play freely and enjoy themselves.”
The Discovery Park will be open outside of school hours for parents with autistic children to use, including during the school holidays and siblings will also be encouraged to use the equipment, providing good role models for the children.
Phase one of the project involved landscaping and putting in tunnels, hills, slides and swings, which particularly meet the needs of the youngsters. Phase two involved building a huge climbing frame and the final phase, which has just been completed, is all about meeting the sensory needs of the children.