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Meet the Kids: Dannia

Dannia

Dannia is toddler diagnosed with developmental delays and language impairment (Autism). Her therapists and family have noticed that she is beginning to pick up words and phrases through electronics. An iPad with the appropriate apps will help motivate her to learn more speech. Both of Dannia’s parents are full-time students and the costs of this potentially beneficial device is beyond their means at this time. Variety KC donors understand the importance of early intervention and are making it possible for Dannia to have the tablet she needs! This ability to communicate can have a lifelong impact on Dannia and her future. Help Variety to provide other kids like Dannia with the equipment they need for inclusion. Visit varietykc.org and donate today!

Variety KC Exploration Play – an All Inclusive Experience at the Kansas City Zoo

Setting the Standard – Inclusiveness at the Kansas City Zoo

The Need for Inclusiveness

Children with special needs, and all children, benefit tremendously from inclusive play. Participation and availability of activities can be challenging due to:

  • Sensory and social skill issues that can make public experiences difficult
  • Lack of truly inclusive opportunities at major attractions such as a zoo or park
  • Equipment and venues that are ADA compliant, but still pose hurdles to some individuals

As “inclusion” becomes more than a buzzword, organizations are rethinking the design and build of public projects. One such project is the partnership between the Kansas City Zoo (over a million visitors per year) and Variety KC (a not-for-profit providing equipment and opportunities for children with special needs).

The Grand Opening: Variety KC Exploration Play – an All Inclusive Experience

Friday, May 4th – 10:30 am at the Kansas City Zoo

Variety Supporter and Royals Pitcher, Danny Duffy will speak as representatives of Variety KC.

Accessible is not necessarily inclusive according to Deborah Wiebrecht, the Executive Director of Variety KC. No other Zoo in the nation has launched such an inclusive effort.

From the play surface, throughout each feature of the natural play area, every consideration has been made for absolute inclusiveness. The partnership started in 2017, as FOTZ was planning for a new Nature Play area at the Zoo, Variety KC was consulted in order to ensure the area’s features were inclusive to children with disabilities.

  • A zip line with companion harnesses so a parent or partner can accompany a child with special needs.  
  • An “elephant swing” that is accessible for children with special needs, but accommodates multiple children – encouraging engagement among all kids on the swing.
  • Special solid surfacing will allow children in power wheelchairs or using gait walkers to access all areas of the exhibit. (Although ADA accepted, a single piece of mulch from a mulched playground surface can damaging the mechanics of a $10,000 power wheelchair.)
  • Low sensory area for calming children and for breast-feeding mothers seeking privacy.
  • Special sensory kits with weighted blankets and noise canceling headphones are available for checkout.

Wiebrecht explains that the most important part of this effort is the social aspect of the play area. “Play time is the key time for children to learn to interact, to resolve conflict, and realize we’re all different. Because the majority of playgrounds and play areas are not inclusive, some children don’t often meet their peers with special needs. Inclusive opportunities like the zoo’s will allow peers to meet and play together, overcoming obstacles and differences together. This is how a caring community is created, this is how to raise open-minded, empathetic, and cooperative adults.”

The inclusiveness extends beyond children. This totally accessible and inclusive destination is also a benefit to grandparents who may be mobility challenged, or for a parent who may be a disabled veteran. “One out of four families has a member with a disability. Can you imagine excluding 25% of your friends from joining you?” asks Wiebrecht.

Additional Details

Everyone benefits from regular physical activity, especially children with special needs. Most disabilities can be accommodated with adaptive equipment or technique adjustments – the benefits are many:

  • Improvement in muscle strength, coordination, and flexibility.
  • Improved exercise endurance, cardiovascular efficiency
  • Better balance, motor skills and body awareness
  • Improved behavior, academics, focus, self-confidence
  • Experiences a sense of accomplishment and personal satisfaction
  • Can increase appetite, improve quality of sleep
  • Decrease in secondary health complications like obesity, high blood pressure, low HDL (“good”) cholesterol and diabetes
  • Provides outlet for physical energy, helps them cope with anxiety, stress and depression
  • Offers opportunities to engage with “typical” friends and family members

Meet the Kids: Christian

Christian

Can you imagine being a teenage boy and not being able to communicate all your thoughts, needs and wants? Christian is completely non-verbal and unable to express himself in a positive way. His therapists recommend a NovaChat, an assisted and augmented speech device. This device is more than a form of communication, it’s liberation! And what is more important for a young man entering his teens? Gracious Variety donors made it possible for Christian to receive his NovaChat, but there are so many more kids who would benefit from one. Can you help? Visit www.varietykc.org and donate today, doesn’t every child deserve a voice?

Meet the Kids: Adysen

Adysen

Adysen is just four, but she is completely captivated with learning apps. She has a number of disabilities, including cerebral palsy and epilepsy, and Adysen is non-verbal. As bright as she is, not being able to communicate is really frustrating and shows up in her behavior at times. In addition ,Adysen is one of five children. When her family goes out, Adysen isn’t always able to participate like her siblings and she gets bored and disruptive. However, when she has a tablet with activities of her own, Adysen is able to enjoy herself and enjoy being out and about with her family. With five kids and excessive medical bills, having a tablet of her own was only a dream….but Variety KC’s donors made that dream come true! Help us to help kids like Adysen to find their “voice” through a communication device. Donate today at VarietyKC.org. Thank you!

Meet the Kids: Zander

Zander

Zander had a rough start in life, including being born addicted to drugs. He has multiple health challenges, but he has a loving adoptive family there for support! Because he is non-verbal, Zander needs a tablet to communicate. Being able to connect and share through communication is a necessary component to inclusion and VarietyKC donors want every child to have that inclusive opportunity to Be Active, Be Social, and Belong! Help give a “voice” to other kids like Zander Visit varietyKC.org today!

P.O. Box 3446 | Shawnee, KS 66203 | (913) 558-2309 | varietykc@gmail.com