‘Play is the real work of childhood’: LIC school opens new playground for students with autism

Sensory Playground 1
Courtesy of Van Bramer’s office

A school for students with special needs, tucked away in an industrial neighborhood in Long Island City on the southern edge of the Sunnyside Yard, has a new playground.

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer joined the administration, faculty and entire student body of P4Q@Skillman for a ribbon-cutting for its new sensory playground on April 9.

The school is for around 100 students on the autism spectrum and the new play area is equipped with safety surfacing and accessible play structures that are customized for children with motor skills and sensory processing issues. Playground features include instruments, touch-and-feel areas, a slide, rock climbing, hopscotch and more.

“P4Q@Skillman is an incredible school and its students deserve modernized space inside and outside of the classroom where they can learn and grow. This beautiful new sensory playground will allow children with special needs to play together, explore and develop critical life skills,” Van Bramer said.

Prior to the $250,000 renovation project, P4Q@Skillman had no playground, just an empty yard. The idea for the playground was originally proposed by several of the school’s teachers during a neighborhood assembly during the participatory budgeting cycle in 2015.

Over the course of several months, the school, Van Bramer’s office and the School Construction Authority turned the idea into a tangible proposal. During the actual voting, the project received more votes than any other project on the ballot with a total of 1,437 votes.

“I am especially proud that the funding for this project was made possible through my 2015-1016 Participatory Budgeting initiative after it received the largest number of votes from thousands of community members,” Van Bramer said. “It goes to show that our community deeply cares about the success of P4Q@Skillman and its bright students.”

P4Q@Skillman’s acting principal Alison Quinlan said that the new playground would enhance the students’ quality of life and their education.

“As Mr. Rogers said, ‘Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning, but for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood,’” she said. “Now, we are able to not only address educational and social skills but now play. This is a wonderful experience for our students.”

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