Researchers hope to find answers on new playground

USF will open a new playground for research on children with communication disorders. Scientists hope interaction on the playground will help them better understand afflicted children.

The playground will be built near the Communications Sciences and Disorders Building. Completely green and yellow, the playground comes fully equipped with wheel chair ramps, bumpers and recycled rubber to soften the ground surrounding the play area.

” Children learn through play, and the playground will give them a reason to communicate with their peers and teachers and serves as incentive for progress in their speech therapy,” said Sandra Graham, director for the communications sciences and disorders center.

For example, if a child wishes to climb a piece of equipment, he or she must express it verbally. The way in the child communicates depends on the severity of the disorder. The children must communicate as they do things on the playground, Graham said.

The center treats a wide variety of communication disorders from hearing deficiencies to speech impediments.

Children are not the only ones being treated at the center.

Elderly stroke victims, for example, are treated, and sometimes cross-generation interactions with the children helps them communicate. Any kind of communication is what researchers are trying to accomplish with the patients, Graham said.

Carol Fernandez, clinical coordinator for speech and language pathology at the center, said that various organizations helped by donating $47,000 worth of equipment for the new playground.

Joy Cornett’s grandson, Nicholas Dirks, is 4 years old and has been receiving treatment from the center for nearly two years.

“We were very fortunate to find this center at USF. The people are wonderful. I wish it were publicized a lot more. It is hard to find a caring facility with affordable and efficient treatment,” said Cornett.

“He (Dirks) has really developed a strong bond with his instructors, and that is something you don’t get at a normal speech therapist’s office, and a playground should be a great addition to that bond,” said Cornett.

Researchers have expressed some excitement about the new facility and expect direct results.

“The playground will allow the client(s) to have fun while learning, and this should improve the rate of progress in their speech through the means of interaction,” said Graham.

The playground is scheduled to open March 3.