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Stories to make parks accessible to more kids

Thursday 30 March, 2017

Children on the autism spectrum are set to enjoy being in parks and nature more easily thanks to a new visitor resource at Serendip Sanctuary in Melbourne’s west.

Many would think a trip to the park and seeing Australia’s amazing wildlife would be an easy venture. However, for children on the autism spectrum, new experiences out of their routine can increase their anxiety levels and give them sensory overload.

Parks Victoria worked with Amaze, the peak body for people on the autism spectrum, to develop the new resource. Illustrated stories, known as ‘social scripts’, about the popular sanctuary are now available for the first time. Parents can go online and create a tailored story about the upcoming experience with photos of different aspects of the park and descriptions of what they will find there.

Children will see a variety of pictures and descriptions about wildlife, play equipment, and facilities such as a bird hide, the park entrance, picnic and toilet facilities. Becoming familiar with these experiences before a visit can make a huge difference for families.

Quotes attributable to Vanessa Wiggenraad, Parks Victoria Education Ranger:

“Parks Victoria is keen for kids of all abilities to experience the huge benefits of getting out into nature.

“Serendip Sanctuary is a great place for families to get close encounters with animals native to the Western Volcanic Plains such as kangaroos, Brolgas and Tiger Quolls. It is fantastic that this opportunity will now be easier for families who have children with autism.

“The social script makes a visit to the park less stressful for children with autism. It takes them through the most popular walk at the sanctuary where they can explore an underwater world in the Information Centre, test their kangaroo hopping skills, get close up to kangaroos and visit bird hides to spot hundreds of birds in wetlands.”

Quote attributable to Fiona Sharkie, CEO Amaze:

“Amaze is delighted to partner with Parks Victoria on their quest to improve the Serendip Sanctuary experience for children on the autism spectrum. Efforts such as this are greatly appreciated by families as they often make the difference between being able to visit a place like the Sanctuary or not.”

The new program follows a successful trial at Brimbank Park in Keilor East where the social scripts are proving popular with families.


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Kate Milkins
0437 129 031

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