KILLEEN, TX — The Lions Club Special Needs Park is one of a few inclusive parks in our area, that are specifically designed for kids who have special needs.
To some, it's just a playground, but to parents who have kids with special needs, it's a symbol of inclusion.
“They're kind of closed off to kind of sheltered, they're very distant from a lot of people,” said Marty Mendoza Sr., who has a son with Autism.
Mendoza Sr. said it can be a secluded life, for kids with disabilities.
“When you're, when you're at a store, you go to a certain place, or like a regular park for that matter. They'll look at him and say what's wrong with them, is there's something wrong with them,” he said.
Outdoor activities can be a challenge for his son Marty Jr., because of sensory issues. Mendoza Sr. says this park makes outdoor activities more accessible for his son.
Mendoza Sr said, “He is an adult but mentally he's still a child. He likes to play with balls, he likes to run, he likes to play with cars. I'm overwhelmed, to see that so many people and so many families and so many people that actually took their time to actually build something for this.”
Marty Mendoza Jr. can just be himself, without fear or judgment.
“It's important that kids with exceptionalities or special needs have access to recreational areas that are designed for them,” said Dr. Elizabeth Casey Professor of Curriculum and Instruction at A&M Central Texas.
The fragments of individuality make our world whole, which makes inclusive parks essential to exposing kids to others who aren't like them.
Dr. Casey said, “I think I think it's a great way for all children to be engaged with other children and, and learn more about children who are, make friends who are not like them. I think that as a society that helps us become more accepting and more understanding of other people in our communities and in our lives.”
Marty Jr’s world, now a little brighter, with a special place that’s as unique as him.
“I'm just overwhelmed, I'm speechless, to be honest with you and just truly blessed to be a part of his life and to be a part of this wonderful thing right here. Just shows that they're like everybody else they can have fun just like everybody else and enjoy life, which you can be a beautiful place,” said Mendoza Sr.