OCOEE, Fla. – A new ADA-compliant playground that recently opened at an Orange County elementary school is getting results to make sure all students feel included.
Corin Metz is a senior teacher at Thornebrooke Elementary School in Ocoee and works with many children who have autism.
She said the new inclusive playground is a great way for kids to interact and also learn the importance of being kind to each other.
“This is an inclusive playground. So, this is a great opportunity for our children with autism to play with their typical peers,” Metz said. “There are students in the general education classroom who really step up and they go out of their way to befriend our students with autism because it’s hard for our friends to make friends.”
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Principal Korey Bawden said this investment has been all worth it. He said the money was fundraised by the school’s Parent Teacher Organization and gives the younger kids a chance to play and interact together during recess.
“It puts a smile on my face,” Bawden said. “We have amazing teachers out here. We have an amazing ASD (autism spectrum disorder) unit for our students and we really wanted to bring something where we can bring our kids together.”
5th grader Chloe Bolin said Lola Drewes is her best friend. They both attend Thornebrooke Elementary and had so much fun recently on their 5th grade trip to Universal.
“She is like my No. 1 friend,” Bolin said. “I just don’t want her to be seen different.”
Chloe said she makes it her mission each day to make sure Lola is included. Lola has autism and takes many general education classes with her friends like Chloe. She’s also a part of her school’s safety patrol, the drama club and so much more.
“I would play with her and make sure she’s included in my class,” Bolin said.
Lola doesn’t always play on the newly-installed playground since it’s designed for more of the younger kids, but she told News 6 it puts a smile on her face knowing more children are interacting with each other.
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