Imagine you are at a loud and crowded party. You are being pressed and jostled as people dance around you or push past to grab a drink or food. All of your senses seem to be on overload — blaring music forces conversations to reach ever-increasing volumes, the odor of food cooking consumes your sense of smell, and all the colors of people’s outfits and the décor in the room vie for your eyes’ attention. All of a sudden, you feel the need to just need to get out. You must get a breath of fresh air or go somewhere where it is quiet for moment, before you can feel comfortable enough to rejoin the party and enjoy yourself.
Removing yourself from the situation where you felt overwhelmed was an active self-regulation strategy to adjust your position to get a more manageable level of sensory input. The book, From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development, (Shonkoff and Phillips, 2000), defines self-regulation as a child’s ability to gain control of bodily functions, manage powerful emotions, and maintain focus and attention. The ability to self-regulate is a cornerstone of early childhood development and visible in all areas of behavior.
Playgrounds are often a good place to practice the skill of self-regulation. What does the child do who gets overwhelmed with all of the sounds, movement and color on the playground? We don’t want them running away from the area, refusing to participate. Instead, we want to provide them with a small, cozy space on the playground where they can go a regroup before rejoining the activity.
All children need this, but children with autism and/or sensory processing disorder are often over-stimulated faster, with more intensity and more frequently. To ensure successful experiences on the playground, it becomes imperative to provide these types of spaces.
Playworld Systems’ Cozy Cocoon provides the type of space a child might need to self-regulate an overload of sensory input. It is designed so children feel they are completely enclosed, while in reality there are windows that enable a caregiver to watch over the child. It is small enough to convey the feeling of being in a contained area and big enough for a parent to get inside to offer the deep touch so often needed for a child to sufficiently calm down.
The Cozy Cocoon can be mounted to provide motion or no motion. It can be mounted so that a child can spin, sway and rock; or set up to enable a child to slowly go around in a circle. When communities design their playgrounds, they can determine which mounting position is best to complement the rest of the equipment. They may even want to have two Cozy Cocoons mounted differently so that every child can find the space they need the most.
What type of spaces do you look for when you get overwhelmed?