In 2015, there were 3,978,497 births in the United States (CDC). Virginia contributed to that total with 102,187 births. Planning District 15, which includes Charles City, Chesterfield, Goochland, Hanover, Henrico, New Kent, Powhatan, and City of Richmond comprised 14,972 of those births with Henrico in the #1 slot followed by Chesterfield at #2 and Richmond City trailing Chesterfield by approx. 200 births at #3.
The Census Bureau shared that in 2010, 303,858 individuals reported a disability with the largest concentration being in the 6-21 age group. During the 2014-2015 school year the number of children serviced under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) totaled 13% of public school enrollment. What we know is that children with and without disabilities benefit from inclusion in the classroom setting. Goldman and Skinner (2002) completed research on inclusion and noted that when children with disabilities have access to multiple playmates they have more opportunities to develop social and play skills. Also, teachers in this study reported that young children with disabilities in inclusive settings had friends who were typically developing. Cross, Traub, Hutter-Pushgahi &Shelton (2004) note that parents and teachers reported the peers were learning compassion and empathy.
Now, you may be wondering why I am throwing these statistics at you this afternoon. Take a sip of your coffee and stay with me, because it matters. It matters because we are all different. We all come to work, school, church, and our communities with various levels of skill. We all bring stressors and challenges to our daily lives. The way our children view others with disabilities is directly related to the way that we view others with disabilities. Don’t believe me? There is research that backs this up. Why does this matter? It matters because you and your child will come into contact with someone who identifies as having a disability in all aspects of your life every single day; at the grocery store, at school, in your neighborhood, in your family. OR – maybe you or your child identify with a disability. Do you feel that you are treated fairly and similarly to those without? Do parents or other children interact or communicate differently?
There is an amazing park in Richmond called ARC park and it opened in 2015. It is one of my family’s top 3 places to go – and not because it has these awesome play structures to exhaust my wild little boys. But mostly because it provides another opportunity for my children to be around adults and children who may have different skills than they do. Because as a mother, I want my children to be accepting, open, and not have any pause when they meet or play with someone who may walk a little slower, ride in a wheelchair, or communicate.
If you haven’t been, I urge you to go! I will share some of our favorite aspects of ARC park and hope to see you there soon.
First, the park is entirely closed by a gate and fence. You do not have to worry about anyone running into traffic or escaping, which is so very calming as a mother. You will also find different areas around the park: Refresh, Discover, Create, Gather, Play, Move, Explore, & Grow.
Top highlights: Clean/open restrooms with a changing table that can hold up to 200 lbs, a water station, greenhouse, walking paths, recycled, poured-rubber safety surfaces throughout the park, LOTS of swings, a charging station for electric wheelchairs, and fun for all ages.
The play equipment is top notch and hold many children and adults at once without being crowded. Pack a lunch and sit in the grassy section by the swing set or at the covered picnic tables and make new friends!
The park is free and located at 3600 Saunders Avenue, Richmond, VA 23227, easily accessible from all of Metro Richmond. But ARC isn’t just about a park to bring your family its a organization that has been around since 1954 and provides developmental and employment support. Should you find yourself at ARC park and enjoy it, drop a donation in the box so that ARC can continue its amazing work for our community.