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June 2011




Archive for June 2nd, 2011

Fun world: The ‘Taking Flight’ bronze sculpture at Morgan’s Wonderland in San Antonio, Texas, a 10ha theme park that caters to people with physical or mental disabilities.

Thursday June 2, 2011


Morgan’s Wonderland is a fun park designed for children and adults with special needs.

THE carousel has chariots for wheelchairs. Braille games decorate side panels on the jungle gym. And table-high sandboxes allow just about any kid to build a castle.

Morgan’s Wonderland in Texas aims to offer everything a special needs guest might enjoy at a theme park, while appealing to non-disabled visitors, too.

“If it wasn’t for searching Google,” founder Gordon Hartman said, “it would’ve taken me a lot longer to put this together.”

The result is both inventive and heartwarming: a 10ha, US$34mil (RM102mil) park catering every detail to people with physical or mental disabilities, down to jungle gyms wide enough to fit two wheelchairs side-by-side, a “Sensory Village” that’s an indoor mall of touch-and-hear activities, and daily attendance limits so the park never gets too loud or lines too long.

Since opening last year, Morgan’s Wonderland has attracted more than 100,000 guests, despite almost no national marketing by the non-profit park. Admission for people with special needs is free, and adults accompanying them pay US$10 (RM30). Three out of every four visitors do not have disabilities.

The park is the first of its kind in America, according to Hartman, a San Antonio philanthropist who named the place after his 17-year-old daughter, who can’t perform simple maths and struggles to form sentences because of cognitive disabilities. A map in the lobby entrance, where adults with special needs volunteer as greeters, offers a more visual way to gauge the park’s early popularity. The 49 US states and 16 countries which visitors have come from are marked in purple.

Persons with autism, orthopaedic impairments, mental disabilities or seizure disorders are among the most regular visitors. Tifani Jackson’s 11-year-old son, Jaylin, has Williams syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that causes learning disabilities and developmental delays.

Jaylin was showing off his new hat from the gift shop, before coaxing his mum towards the off-road adventure ride, where rugged-looking jeeps that are wheelchair accessible twist and turn through a short track.

“It’s so nice to have a place like this,” said Jackson, who lives in nearby Austin.

Built on the site of an abandoned quarry, Morgan’s Wonderland is one-tenth the size of SeaWorld, the destination mega-attraction on the other side of San Antonio.

Morgan’s Wonderland is deliberately designed so that visitors do not have to go through an exhausting trudge from one overcrowded ride to the next.

Generously spread out, the park has about 20 attractions from active (Butterfly Playground) to easy-going (a train circling a 1.6km-long loop through the park and around a lake). Even more tranquil is the Sitting Garden, a quiet and almost meditative enclave that’s a favourite among parents with autistic children.

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9:01 PM, May. 31, 2011

Great Falls Public Schools discriminated against an autistic boy at North Middle School when it did not take adequate action after hearing that two teaching aides had abused him in a special education classroom, according to a ruling by the Montana Human Rights Bureau that was released today.

The case was filed in June 2009 by Tifonie Schilling, acting on behalf of her son Garrett. Garrett Schilling, 16, was a student at North Middle School in 2008 when two aides, Julie Parish and Kristina Kallies, allegedly used abusive methods of punishment against him by running his head under running water during class. Criminal charges against the two women were dropped earlier this year.

Garrett Schilling has Fragile X syndrome, a genetic condition on the autism spectrum, and has the cognitive abilities of a 3-year-old.

The district is now required to submit its policy for reporting abuse for the bureau’s review. The ruling states that the district should have a policy that requires any discrimination to be reported immediately and that all special education employees be trained in the policy. If the policies are not up to par, the district may have to hire an outside expert to review them and recommend new policies.

Superintendent Cheryl Crawley said that the district already changed its policies ahead of the ruling and had no reason to think it would not be accepted by the bureau.

Tifonie Schilling’s requested damages of $4 million were not awarded.



Greater Shepparton, Australia


A chronic shortage of approved service providers in regional areas such as Shepparton means desperate families are often faced with long waiting lists before they can access help for their children with a disorder on the autism spectrum.

The Federal Budget included an additional $29 million for the Helping Children With Autism program and has been welcomed by eligible families in the Goulburn Valley.

But Scope Victoria is the only approved provider in the Greater Shepparton region.

Kerry Newman’s son Jarryn , 7, was diagnosed with…

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May 30, 2011

Teenagers and children with Asperger’s syndrome and autism often have problems in one or more sensory areas. These include tactile, oral, visual, olfactory, auditory and the general ability to balance and control the body. In the book, Asperger Syndrome in Adolescence, Mark Willey and Liane Holliday Willey describe forms of occupational therapy that can be carried out at home.

Recognizing Sensory Problems in Teens with Asperger’s Syndrome


Young people with Asperger’s Syndrome often have difficulties with gross and fine motor control as well as over or under-sensitivity to sounds, touch and smell. While these weaknesses should be diagnosed by a professional, here are some warning signs to look out for:

  • *clumsiness
  • *problems with hand-eye coordination
  • *balance problems
  • *poor posture
  • *sensitivity to sound, light, smell and touch
  • *difficulties in social situations
  • *learning disabilities
  • *anxiety
  • *poor eating habits


Simple Steps to Overcome Sensory Weaknesses in Teens with Asperger’s Syndrome


An occupational therapist will often recommend simple exercises that can be practised at home. Here are some ideas to experiment with:

Help for over and under-sensitivity to tactile experiences:

  • *Encourage and offer tight squeezes and hugs.
  • *Use tactile-rich decor such as cork, sisal rugs and furry blankets.
  • *Supply a bag of different textured items such as feathers, leather, silk, tinfoil, sandpaper and sponge and encourage the child to rub them and feel the different surfaces.
  • *Cook meals with different size pieces of vegetables and different texture foods.
  • *Encourage gardening and patting down soil and working with sand.
  • *Provide clothing the child is comfortable in.


Help for over and under-sensitivity to oral experiences:

  • *Offer chewing gum, lollipops and hard candy.
  • *Supply straws or cups with built in straws.
  • *Ensure the child is on a multivitamin to make up for any dietary deficiency.
  • *Encourage bubble blowing.
  • *Supply simple wind instruments such as recorders and harmonicas.


Help for children with auditory sensitivity:

  • *Supply earplugs or earmuffs when at a loud event or sports match.
  • *Expose the child to a variety of music and see which is most enjoyed.
  • *Teach the child how to cope with or move away from loud noises such as a passing train or screaming children.
  • *Take the child to quiet places on outings such as the library, art galleries, coffee shops and parks.


Help for children with olfactory sensitivity:

  • *Supply a small vial of a perfume the child likes that he can sniff if he needs to.
  • *Give permission for the child to leave the room if an odour is too strong and try and make the same provision at his school.
  • *Don’t bring home magazines with perfumed pages.
  • *Teach a child to breathe through his mouth to minimize unwanted smells.


Help for children with visual sensitivity:

  • *Work with an ophthalmologist as different color and strength lenses can help.
  • *Do jigsaw puzzles with the child.
  • *Encourage activities where the child sorts items into shapes and sizes.
  • *Work on collages.
  • *Build 3D models.


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