April 11, 2019 By Alexa Beyer
Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer unveiled a new playground designed for children on the autism spectrum disorder yesterday at a Long Island City school.
PQ4@Skillman, a public K-8 school for children on the autism spectrum and with special needs, had no playground prior to the renovation—just an empty yard.
Several teachers brought the idea of an autism-centric playground to the councilmember at one of his 2015 neighborhood assemblies about participatory budgeting, which allows residents to decide how to spend capital funds.
From there, the teachers turned the idea into a winning proposal. The project won the most votes in Van Bramer’s 2015-2016 participatory budget, racking up over 1,400 votes.
“I do a lot of ribbon cuttings,” Van Bramer said at yesterday’s ceremony, “but there are very few that are as meaningful as this one.”
The $250,000 playground is designed for children with motor skill and sensory issues, which are common for individuals with autism. It features “touch and feel areas”, rock climbing, and a slide.
PQ4’s Acting Interim Principal Alison Quinlain said that the playground would not only enhance students’ quality of life but their education.
“As Mr. Rogers said, ‘Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood,” she said.
“Now, we are able to not only address educational and social skills but now play. This is a wonderful experience for our students.”