Left-Right: Ellen Devaney, Principal, Sacred Heart School and Olivia Lee, Project Lead at Sport Otago
A new piece of play equipment at an Otago primary school is providing a more inclusive environment for students.
Sacred Heart School in Dunedin has installed a new accessible swing, a play initiative that is allowing one disabled student, Latiya, to finally play with her friends.
The swing is the result of a recent community consultation that identified swings as a top request for play, narrowing it down to an accessible swing to help Latiya to play alongside her peers.
Her friends helped to lobby for the play equipment through the Tū Manawa funding application via Sport Otago.
Rather than missing out, Sacred Heart principal Ellen Devaney says Latiya can now sit alongside her friends on the swing and engage and connect with them in a fun way.
“She is so happy when she’s on the swing, the joy and excitement is obvious, and it really shows in her body language,” says Ellen.
On weekends, Latiya and her family regularly head to the school to play on the piece of equipment that has given her a chance to feel included.
The benefits are far-reaching for Latiya in numerous ways, enabling her to gain more strength, improve her balance, co-ordination and address sensory processing.
Additionally, a rocking movement can support students with autism with their learning, but for Latiya and her friends, it’s more about the joy and fun of playing together. It’s such a popular piece of equipment for all students the school has had to introduce a roster system.
“The children love it, they all love taking turns and helping to push each other,” says Ellen.
“Play initiatives like this are invaluable. This is something we could never have afforded to do as a small school, and Latiya would not have been able to access any play with her friends.”
As Ellen says, play is a huge part of her school and an integral part of tamariki wellbeing.
“In break times, before, during, and after school, the playground is always busy with groups of children of all ages playing together – it’s so exciting to think we now have this equipment that provides a play opportunity for all, an inclusive play space that allows one of our students who was missing out, to be able to play, and also play with and alongside her peers.”
The play initiative is also having direct benefits for the wider community who frequently use the school and facilities.
From Sport Otago’s point of view, providing opportunities through play initiatives like the swing is hugely rewarding.
“With this fund, we are able to support our community and help remove barriers for tamariki and rangatahi,” says Sport Otago’s Regional Play Systems Lead, Georgia Clarke.
“Everybody deserves to play in their own way and being able to encourage and deliver on this is a great thing.”
Back-front: Te Rina-Aroha (Latiya's mum), Ariana (Latiya's cousin) and Latiya