Anton Skala: The Dream Garden that Changed Everything
The Dream Garden that we donated to the special elementary school “Anton Skala” in Belgrade helped children believe in their abilities more than ever before – it helped them stand up straight.
Marko is a boy with autism, hypersensitive to sensory stimuli. He had problems walking. Every sound elicited his negative response, preventing him to move. He felt apprehensive about crawling on uneven or unstable surfaces. These and similar situations cause children with autism difficulties such as nausea and dizziness. They find this unpleasant sensation painful and stressful, and as a result, they seem fearful in space and appear somewhat clumsy and unable to perform normal everyday activities.
One day, Marko was in his school yard when he spotted modern fitness sets, brand new playground, sensory garden and many other things. At first he did not know what that was. He did not understand what all these things were for. It took him several months to start using them.
However, thanks to the wonderful school staff, therapists and teachers, he finally got used to them, and the school yard became his favorite place to spend time during the school break. He started to exercise, and felt much better and more comfortable. This school yard brought him and his schoolmates much needed happiness and peace.
Our donation to special elementary school “Anton Skala” in Belgrade helped children believe in their abilities more than ever before. It helped them stand up straight.
You may wonder how that happened.
Well, using mini-fitness sets, specially designed for children with disabilities, kids have learned to move without anyone’s help. Generally, if the child with autism is told to lift his leg or put it down, he does not know what exactly he should do. These ordinary movement activities are not an easy task for autistic children.
Therefore, this fitness device which makes legs move up and down is a very useful thing for them.
While doing the exercises, the teacher explains to the child if his leg is up or down which helps the kid to understand how his body functions and enables him to move it as he wants. Walking surfaces that make different tactile sensation – rubber, leaves, and ground are also very important for the children to distinguish and control body movements.
The teachers from “Anton Skala” are happy that all children like fitness devices, telling that one hour in the playground is enough for the kids to learn something that usually takes them a month of hard work in the classroom.
One of the girls who goes to this school is Ivana. When she started attending “Anton Skala” she couldn’t climb or descend the stairs by herself. As a child with autism spectrum disorder she had fearful reactions to this ordinary movement activity. No words of encouragement could help.
Unfortunately, she is not the only one with this issue. The most common problem in children with autism, apart from having difficulties to speak, communicate, respond to sound and touch, is the problem with the vestibular system, or sense of balance, responsible for maintaining posture and the body’s orientation in space.
Balance is crucial for everything we do.
It has impact on our thought processing skills and attention.
Children with autism spectrum disorder must develop balance in order to be able to listen and watch.
When there is sensory system disorder children may lose the sense of their own body as well as spatial orientation. For example, the child is thirsty; he sees a glass of water on the table and wants to drink it but does not know how to make that movement. As a result, the child may be frustrated.
That’s why the “therapeutic garden” we donated to “Anton Skala” is very important, as it is equipped with devices for balance and vestibular stimulation, essential for motor skill development.
This “Dream Garden” is the place where children can play and make new friends.
Today, this beautiful schoolyard is not only being used by children from “Anton Skala” school, but also by other kids from the neighborhood who like to exercise on new fitness-sets and play in the playground. Our idea was to bring them closer one to another, and to make kids from the school feel relaxed and equal to their peers. They can play chess together, football, basketball or anything they want in this great surrounding. The yard is also used by other special schools from Serbia, on the traditional event called “The Olympics”, where children with disabilities not only compete in several different activities, but also socialize, sing and have fun every time during the last day of school.
The aim of “Anton Skala” schoolyard project was to enable children to play in the park with their friends in a safe environment. Before the reconstruction, they had not been able to do so because the school yard was almost deserted, and there were no funds to complete the project. However, all of this changed for the better after the reconstruction. Now you can see kids who enjoy and play in this schoolyard, not only with their schoolmates but also with other children from the neighborhood.
Today is World Autism Awareness Day. Donate and help children from other schools such as “Anton Skala” to have their sensory parks, new schoolyard and better conditions for education and development of children with disabilities.