Oak Brook’s Universal Playground is heaven for 2-year-old with cerebral palsy and his family

August 19, 2019 | The Doings Oak Brook | By Chuck Fieldmam - Pioneer Press

Malena Lindberg was quite upset Saturday when she found out that a planned birthday party for her 2-year-old twin brothers had been canceled, along with a one-year anniversary celebration of the Oak Brook Park District’s Universal Playground.

Malena’s parents, Megan and Mike Lindberg, had arranged with park district staff to have the party as part of the playground anniversary celebration, because it’s one of the very few places that one of the twins, Max, is truly able to play.

Max has cerebral palsy, epilepsy and is considered medically fragile, which means he is dependent on daily skilled intervention medical care, according to the University of New Mexico Center for Development & Disability. Max has been in the hospital on a regular basis and has had eight surgeries.

The $1 million Universal Playground at Central Park was designed so everyone is able to participate. That includes Max, which allows his big sister and twin brother, Major, the opportunity to play with him.

That’s why Malena was all smiles when her parents decided to head over from their Lombard home to the Universal Playground Saturday, despite cancellation of the parties. “It’s the only place Max can play with other kids, and it’s fun there,” Malena said. “I’m excited for him when he gets to do that because I know he really likes it.” The smiles on Max’s face most of the time he was at the playground appeared to be a good indication that his sister was on target with her assessment.

The playground structure has two levels, and even the highest points are accessible through extra-wide ramping, which allows two individuals to pass even if a wheelchair is involved.

“The concept of universal play considers the physical, social and emotional needs of all users, so that everyone can experience the benefits of outdoor play and no one is left on the sidelines,” said Laure Kosey, the park district’s executive director.
Kosey called the Universal Playground, “the best million dollar investment ever.”
“It’s beyond any expectations,” she said. “To go out there and just watch people from every ability and every age be able to participate is just hard to put into words.”

Megan Lindberg, who learned about the playground from another mom of a special needs child, said it is wonderful.

“It allows all three of our kids to play together and have fun together, and that’s pretty hard to beat," she said. “So much of our time is stressed out, it means a lot to have Max participate and be able to have fun.”

Kosey said she has received considerable positive feedback about the playground from those who have used it.
“I had one mom, who has a child with autism, drive from Evanston,” she said.

As for the birthday party and anniversary celebration, Kosey said she hopes to reschedule.