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Opinion

St. Charles Park District offers recreation for all

Inclusive programs give individuals with special needs opportunity for success

As a founding member of the Fox Valley Special Recreation Association, the St. Charles Park District has offered inclusive opportunities for residents with special needs since 1976.

This partnership with FVSRA allows individuals – from children to adults -- with special needs to participate in park district programs including preschool, sports, dance and more. Parents enrolling their child can request an inclusion aide to provide assistance, which is coordinated through FVSRA. All services are free to families.

The park district also provides dedicated space for FVSRA within some facilities, and playgrounds with accessible equipment.

“Recreation is so important for everyone,” said Laura Rudow, superintendent of parks and planning, deputy director. “Our participation in FVSRA provides all individuals the many benefits of recreation, the opportunity to socialize and build friendships.”

When parents request an inclusion aide, FVSRA facilitates the process with parents to learn about the special need, taking into consideration the diagnoses, assessments, teacher evaluations and more. From there, the FVSRA will recommend the level of need for a specific program or activity.

“The goal is to let the child be as successful as possible in their environment,” said Recreation Supervisor Kara Guizzetti-Reif.

She stressed that parents should request an aide as early as possible. At the time of enrollment is best, but at least two weeks prior to the program start date.

Guizzetti-Reif has seen first-hand the many benefits of the FVSRA partnership in early childhood and youth programs.

“Children with special needs learn to socialize and build friendships with other children in the class, and children without special needs learn to appreciate others who have different abilities,” Guizzetti-Reif said.

“So many times people focus on what’s different instead of what they share in common,” she added. “But when these children get to know each other in class, they learn they have so many commonalities.”

Rudow said over the years they have seen the needs of the special recreation programming change, and currently the largest area of growth is for adults. Individuals age 22 and older meet for regular programming in the Adult Day Break program, run by FVSRA staff, but held at

Pottawatomie Community Center and Sportsplex.

FVSRA also acts as a resource to the park district during the planning stages of a renovation, park or outdoor amenity. For example, if the park district is building an outdoor workout area, Rudow said they will lean on FVSRA for input on design and equipment, to accommodate persons of all abilities.

Most recently, the park district received a $10,000 donation from the Kiwanis Club of St. Charles to help bring more accessible playground equipment to the community.

With the donation, the park district will install a wheelchair swing in the therapeutic, special needs playground at Pottawatomie Park, which will open in Spring of 2021. River Bend Community Park, Renaux Manor Park, Delnor Woods Park and Langum Park, to name a few, have also received special needs swings in recent years from continued support from Kiwanis.

For more information on the District’s special needs, call 630-513-6200 or visit https://www.stcparks.org/special-needs/, FVSRA at https://www.fvsra.org/ or Kiwanis at http://www.kiwanisclubofstcharles.org

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