EDMONTON -- An Edmonton playspace for kids with physical and mental challenges is now bringing in occupational therapy students to give more support to the children and their families.

The not-for-profit group AdaptAbilities has a play space set up inside the Orange Hub in the city’s west end.

The Gross Motor Room has swings, climbing walls, and all manner of play equipment for kids to move around on.

But starting back in September, organizers added a brand new addition to the room: occupational therapy students.

Isla puzzle

The idea was to give the students a seven-week practicum working with special needs kids in the already available space.

The collaboration gives the students a chance for some real-world experience and gives the families accessing the space insight and assistance from a trained specialist.

"The children are playing and they are just having fun, but at the end of the day there is also some really specific goals that are being targeted to help increase their potential and develop their skills," explained Michelle Hordal, CEO of AdaptAbilities.

Alyse and Isla

Alyse Charlton, an occupational therapy student with the University of Alberta, spends about one hour with each child she works with and tailors the play structure to each child's individual needs.

"With one child we might be in this gym working on gross motor activities, so climbing on the rock wall or doing some different coloring activities, and with other kids we might be in the sensory room so a more calm environment where we're focusing on things such as fine motor control or just exploring different sensory opportunities."


The great opportunity to have both a sophisticatedly constructed free space and a highly trained therapist to work with is not lost on parents whose children in the program.

Monique DaCosta's four-year-old daughter, Isla, has autism. The new program is something that she calls essential for her daughter's development, but also helps her become a more capable parent for a special needs child.


"Playing games with her and how we can give her the opportunity to engage during a game, which helps her like communicate better, assessing and helping her like with her sensory needs as well. And just giving us the tools and the knowledge to help her."

More information about AdaptAbilities is available online.