Oakland County, Mich.
Oakland County Parks and Recreation (OCPR) is committed to providing people of all abilities with the recreational equipment, programs and services they need to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle at its 13 parks. To better serve patrons with developmental, cognitive and physical disabilities, as well as their families and caregivers, OCPR makes training its staff members a priority. In 2016, OCPR supervisors received a unique training opportunity from one of its partners to better understand how to interact with individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder. This training session was provided through the Oakland University Center for Autism, also known as OUCARES. During the training session, OCP supervisors learned to recognize common characteristics of autism spectrum and how to communicate effectively by breaking information down into simple steps, keeping verbal statements short and maintaining a low voice among other strategies. OCPR enjoys a unique relationship with the Oakland University Center for Autism. Each summer OCPR hosts an OUCARES Autism Camp at Independence Oaks County Park. Campers are picked up and bused to the park for activities including pontoon boat rides; fishing; an inflatable bouncer; Mini Festival inflatable which includes a bouncer, tropical maze and dinosaur slide; nature center hike; and naturalist class instruction. While a wonderful time is had by all campers, staff training on interacting with people with autism is a valuable tool that will help year-round, not just during the OUCARES Autism Camp. This training session has increased awareness among staff members, including part-time employees, full-time staff and volunteers. OCPR believes the more staff is aware of resources available to those with disabilities, the more accessible the parks will become to people of all abilities and the better all patrons will be served.
Ms. Jane Peterson