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A Hillsboro Mom's Request: The Story That Changed Bicentennial Park
Editor's note: The November/December 2017 edition of the City Views printed newsletter inaccurately referenced the autism spectrum in association with Social Pragmatic Communication Disorder. We sincerely regret the error and have corrected all online versions to reflect this.
Parenthood is an arduous journey. Going to the grocery store is no longer a matter of writing a shopping list and hopping in the car; grabbing lunch with friends no longer involves just showing up; and enjoying a stroll through the park no longer means just grabbing house keys. There is an incredible amount of planning that goes into your daily tasks, and your number one concern is the happiness and safety of your children.
Now imagine one of your children has a communication disorder and, on top of that, he randomly takes off running. These are the concerns Jennifer Lindemann faces daily.
“As soon as he mastered walking, he was running. I thought by three he would have grown out of it, and it is getting better, but it’s still not where it needs to be,” she says of her three-year-old son Noah.
Noah was diagnosed with Social Pragmatic Communication Disorder. According to the Indiana Resource Center for Autism, the disorder includes difficulties understanding tone, context, and appropriate ways to interact socially. It also creates “functional limitations in effective communication, social participation, social relationships, academic achievement, or occupational performance, individually or in combination.” Though not itself a form of autism, this disorder has been studied most closely by researchers for its similarities when it comes to social interaction and development.
Since he was 18 months, Noah has been seeing a speech therapist 1-2 times a week and attending early intervention in Hillsboro. The family has seen great progress, but there remain disconnects in verbal understanding and physical cues. When Jennifer’s second son Luke was born last year, already difficult daily tasks became impossible without family assistance.
“I can’t just leave one of the boys at home [since my husband travels weekly for work]. I have to always have somebody with me to help, and that’s difficult. The biggest challenge was really just being stuck in my house if my mom, dad, or sister weren’t available. I felt for a long time that I couldn’t leave,” Jennifer says.
It was fortuitous then that on a rare outing in the spring to Orenco Woods Nature Park, Jennifer and her father met Laurie DeVos, a Project Manager at the City of Hillsboro Parks & Recreation Department.
“My dad talks to everyone, and he saw she was doing some type of work with the park, so he went over and talked to her,” says Jennifer. “She was so nice and was telling us about everything going on with Orenco Woods, and then asked, ‘What could you guys use in the community?’ So my dad said, ‘Well, look at my daughter right now, she’s running around nonstop [trying to catch her son].’”
Jennifer was able to talk to Laurie during that first meeting and tell her that even a small fenced area in any Hillsboro park would give her less anxiety in taking her boys out to play. The two kept in touch and looked at various parks together that would be good candidates for a fenced play environment that could be “runner” friendly. Jennifer was all too happy to help, even though she anticipated the fenced site wouldn’t be built until well after Noah’s running ended. “At least it will help out some other families,” she thought; however, just five months after their initial meeting, Bicentennial Park became the first park in Hillsboro with a fenced playground.
Jennifer has been sharing the good news with the mom groups she’s a part of, as well as her sons’ pediatrician. She hopes spreading the word will help other families who have children with developmental disorders, as well as parents who may just want an extra sense of security when they take their children out to play at the park.
“I’m so grateful for everyone who has taken the time to make this happen so our family can actually have a little freedom and not be stuck in the house. Everyone in my family is grateful,” Jennifer says. “I’ve actually gone by myself several times, which is a very odd feeling to me, but it’s been so nice. What I love about it is it has a play structure for the older kids, and it also has a play structure for my one-year-old. It’s a place they both have something to do, and I can feel safe.”
PICTURED: City of Hillsboro Parks & Recreation Department employees pose at Bicentennial Park after completing the installation of fencing surrounding the park.