My kids attend a two-year-old charter school. Last year they had no playground equipment until some parents donated balls and another parent lent the school a portable basketball hoop last spring.
As with most new charter schools, we went through quite a bit of staff changes the first year. At the beginning of this second year we had a new director. He was a physical education teacher before becoming an administrator, which has been a great boon for our kids when it comes to physical opportunities.
A physical education teacher was hired this year – last year classroom teachers were in charge of physical education for their classrooms. Then, over MEA weekend, new playground equipment was installed. This was great, especially for my child with Asperger’s Syndrome.
Before the playground was put in, he often found himself in trouble fighting over balls with other kids. Because of his syndrome, he is not able to play team sports. He is able to play ball with one other child, maybe two, but even that is very difficult. Since there are not enough balls for every child to have his or her own, he would get into trouble for not sharing, or for stealing a ball from a group of classmates playing a game.
With the addition of the playground equipment, he now had something else to do when a ball was not available. And then came the addition of the Peaceful Playground over spring break. This playground is painted on the parking lot. There are hopscotch boards, four-square courts, a map of the United States and a big circle with shapes and colors that seems to lend itself to all sorts of games. I think there also may be some baselines to play kickball, or something.
I can see how hopscotch and the map are considered peaceful. And when I was a kid four-square was a mild game enjoyed by the less athletic girls, like me. But I have seen how four-square is played now, and it is not peaceful! As you can imagine, my Aspergian wanted in on the fun, with somewhat disastrous results.
He would get so frustrated with his inability to win everytime (which is not possible for anyone – and even less possible for a less-coordinated individual) that he was getting in trouble for pushing classmates when things didn’t go his way. Now he has a paraprofessional who shadows him on the playground and helps him lose gracefully. Since his para joined him several weeks ago, he has only had one physical altercation.
It is good that he is getting help learning how to lose gracefully. We try to teach him that at home, but often we just try to avoid situations that we know will cause trouble, because we want to have a fun, peaceful time. So he is getting the opportunity to learn important life lessons, but I sure miss the peaceful days before the Peaceful Playground!