DPAO Builds Tactile 'Sensory Oasis' for Clients

by Timothy W. Scee II

Special to N
Published June 3,

WATERTOWN, N.Y.  —  Dozens of volunteers and staff from the Disabled Persons Action Organization worked into the weekend to complete the initial phase of an outdoor area described as a “sensory oasis” for its children and adult clients. 

Executive Director Cynthia L. FitzPatrick said the agency sought the design and planning work of Parkitects Inc., Lansing, N.Y., which in the past has designed a daycare center at Fort Drum and playground at Dexter Elementary School.

“Theres going to be a lot of equipment for kids with disabilities, autism, downs syndrome and anybody with a disability,” Mrs. FitzPatrick said. “Most of the stuff out here is going to be tactile and it’s going to be good for stimulation.”

The equipment installed on the 4,750-square-foot area, manufactured by Landscape Structures Inc., Delano, Minn., includes a cozy dome, outdoor bongos, sensory wall with steering wheel, movable and slidable balls, xylophone board and a “good, old fashioned” traditional swing set. 

“It will help develop fine motor and gross motor skills,” Mrs. FitzPatrick said. “This will also create a calming effect for those that do get overstimulated and there’s things that they can play with that will help them calm down a little bit.”

A “true community build,” the land excavation was bid out to Capital Construction & Development Corp., Watertown, and volunteers began digging holes and assembling equipment beginning 2 p.m. Friday. 

The budgeted $100,000 projected, Mrs. FitzPatrick said, was funded from DPAO concert ticket sales over recent years.

“I would really like to stress the thank you to the community for supporting the agency and letting them know it’s their involvement with coming to our concerts and paying for those tickets that got us to here,” she said.

The sensory oasis is expected to serve about 400 of the DPAO’s clients in Jefferson County. 

Anybody that comes to use it is going to benefit because for one thing, we all know it’s healthy to play outside and it will get people outside much easier when it’s something fun to do,” Mrs. FitzPatrick said. “Even though it’s made for sensory and stimulation, it’s all just good fun for a kid."

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