ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Today, Howard County Executive Calvin Ball, Department of Recreation & Parks Director A. Raul Delerme, Howard County Autism Society, Maryland Secretary of Disabilities Carol A. Beatty, State Delegate Jessica Feldmark, Howard County Council Vice Chair Christiana Rigby, Maryland State Autism Coordinator Katie Gandy, and Autism Society of America’s Kim Musheno, joined together to honor World Autism Acceptance Day with “Autism in the Park” at Blandair Regional Park’s Laura’s Place “play-for-all” playground in Columbia. The County will also light the George Howard Building blue tonight to mark World Autism Acceptance Day.
In Howard County, we want to create a community where all of our residents have the resources they need, regardless of age or ability, to not only survive but thrive. Throughout this month, I encourage our community to learn more about autism and increase your understanding, so that there is worldwide support and acceptance for our residents of all abilities.
According to the Howard County Autism Society, Howard County has the highest per capita incidence of autism in Maryland. Today’s event focused on spreading kindness, increasing autism awareness and providing residents an opportunity to learn more about Howard County’s amazing autism community, all while celebrating World Autism Acceptance Day. The free event featured interactive play, entertainers, face painting, music, ice cream and opportunities to visit with first responders.
Held at Laura’s Place, which opened in May 2021, this “play-for-all”, inclusive playground was designed from the ground up to encourage children of all ability levels to be able to play together, while accommodating cognitive, communicative, social/emotional and sensory disabilities.
“Laura’s Place is a crowning jewel of our vision in Howard County to create more inclusive facilities that meet the needs of our growing population,” said Delerme. “What better way to celebrate Autism Acceptance Day than with a day of activities, music and fun for all that not only promotes our wonderful facilities but brings attention to our commitment to providing more play-for-all parks.”
The Howard County Autism Society is thrilled to partner with our county government and local community to celebrate World Autism Acceptance Day in this way. In addition to being an incredibly fun event, it is an opportunity for children of all ages to learn how to interact with their peers with disabilities – both on and off the playground. Laura’s Place is an amazing inclusive playground which features two communication boards which allow non-speaking children who may use assistive technology to play more inclusively with their peers. We hope that this practice of inclusion continues throughout their lives.