SENSES Park, the first play space in Osceola County purposefully designed with children on the Autism spectrum in mind, has been recognized by the Florida Association of Counties with a Best Practice Award.
The award, which is presented in several categories including leadership, large and small business, non-profit, government, green building and business partnership, was announced at the FAC Annual Conference on June 13 at the Hyatt Regency Orlando. Best Practice Award nominations are reviewed by an independent blue-ribbon panel of sustainability experts from government agencies and corporations including previous year winners. Judges evaluate all three pillars – economic, environmental and social – and focus on projects that are environmentally friendly, provide a strong business model, help create a better community and can be replicated.
“I have been passionate about the SENSES Park project for the past several years. Early on, I realized that not only Osceola County but all of Central Florida has been lacking in play spaces for these very special children,” said County Commissioner Viviana Janer, whose district includes the park. “Now not a day goes by without families coming to enjoy the park. I can honestly say that being able to watch them play and make use of this space, enjoying themselves within their own ability levels, has been one of the most rewarding moments of my time in office.”
SENSES Park, located at 2296 Camelia Drive in Buenaventura Lakes, is an all-inclusive playground that caters to children on the autism spectrum. It opened in February 2019.
The structures are separated by space to allow for self-learning, exploration and in order to provide less intense social play experiences for those on the autism spectrum. A key feature for parents is a perimeter fence, so that children remain within the safe confines of the play area. The inclusive play space is also fully accessible for children who use wheelchairs.
“The community immediately embraced the park, complimenting us for taking the time to understand the various and broad issues related to autism and putting that knowledge into our design of the park,” said Osceola County Public Lands Manager Robert Mindick. “We often hear that children who were not comfortable going to a more conventional playground enjoyed SENSES Park and found their special spot there. I have received calls from complete strangers wanting to just tell me what a difference the park was already making in their child or grandchild’s life.”
For photos and more information about SENSES Park, visit Facebook posts from Osceola County.
For information about all Osceola County parks and recreational facilities, including how to reserve park pavilions, visit https://www.osceola.org/agencies-departments/parks/