The Brief

In conjunction with Sunshine Coast Council, this project is designed to improve the play experience for children, particularly those on the autism spectrum who often have heightened sensory issues.  The key advantage of a sensory area is that all children regardless of ability can benefit from the experience.
 
The Grahame Stewart Park at Currimundi has been developed as an All Abilities facility catering for children of all needs, it is particularly well supported by the local special school.
 
The Rotary Club of Caloundra's brief was to further improve the play experience by adding equipment not already present in the park.
 
The concentration on specific sensory equipment is no coincidence, as it is well known that sensory play builds nerve connections within the child’s developing brains neural pathways.  In turn, these enable more complex skills to be undertaken as the child develops.
 

Sensory play, in general, supports language development, cognitive growth, motor and problem solving abilities and helps with social interaction.

Photo credits: Google Maps & Sunshine Coast Council Graham Stewart Landscape Plan

 

The Science

We are all familiar with the five senses, touch, taste, sight, hearing and smell, but of course, there are actually seven.  The two additional senses proprioception – the ability to perceive motion and position of the body relative to space and secondly vestibular – balance and coordination skills.  Both of these skills have to be learnt and are of vital importance in any child’s development.
 
The flagship feature of the area is hopefully a Barefoot Path – typically these pathways are constructed in sections, stone, wood, pebble, wood mulch and so on.  The feel of the surface as the child walks across different textures provides varying sensations on the feet.  Proprioceptors respond to different pressures and surface textures which in turn creates imbalances.  Improved neuromuscular strength occurs as the child balances his or her posture depending on the surface.
 

Additional Equipment

It is hoped to further enhance the sensory experience by adding complimentary equipment to the pathway - a water play feature, a fossil dig, talk tubes, spinner bowl and xylophone are all under consideration and will meet the requirement of not duplicating existing park equipment.  The area allocated is quite compact, around 70 sq m and will be an extension of one of the existing play areas

 

How can you help?

 
For a Rotary club of our size the development to fund the sensory area without help would be a significant financial challenge.  Depending on funds available the project is likely to be installed over two or three phases the path being the first part.  Caloundra Rotary is though totally dependent on grants and donations to supplement the small amount of money the club can provide.
 
Sunshine Coast Council have been very supportive and to date we have grants and Councillor donations totalling $57,000.  This will probably leave us around $40,000 short of the total project costs although a final cost assessment can only be made when the design is complete.
 
If you feel you can help by contributing financially or through some form of sponsorship to help us develop this unique facility for the children of the Sunshine Coast, we would be pleased to hear from you.   Please contact us using the form below.
 
We are grateful to the Sunshine Coast Council
This project is proudly supported by Sunshine Coast Council’s grants program.
 
Courtesy Sunshine Coast Council
 
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Photo credit: Hiding the goldfish by Iobbi Adventures! on Flickr