Dayton Abbott is like many kindergarteners; she loves to tell jokes, play games, and hang out with friends during recess. But her playground at Alexander Elementary School wasn’t built for inclusivity. With her wheelchair, used for her spina bifida, Dayton would be unable to spend time enjoying recess with her friends. Her mother Natasha realized this when, as she worked as a recess supervisor, she saw another girl in a wheelchair often sitting out. That’s when Natasha decided to make a change.
inclusive playgrounds where children with and without disabilities can play and learn together. There are more than 100 completed Boundless™ playgrounds in over 20 states and Canada, with dozens more in development.
At first, Natasha collected bottles and cans. She earned $0.10 each when recycling them. Next, she began fundraising through online auctions, coin jars, and selling items like t-shirts or stickers. Within three months, Natasha raised $10,000.
Altogether, the entire playground will cost around $130,000 to build. But both Natasha and the Alexander Elementary School principal, Shanan Henline, are working towards the goal. Says Natasha:
“Watching a child in a wheelchair, when you have a child in a wheelchair, not be able to be included, is heartbreaking.”
While they work to raise the additional funds needed for the boundless playground, Alexander Elementary School is still making small changes. So far, they have built a wheelchair-friendly swing. Additionally, the $10,000 will replace the playground’s tanbark with rubber, making it more accessible for all children. Plus, while there is still much to do, Natasha experienced something wonderful: Dayton finally able to enjoy an hour on the playground.
When you unpack the name, spina bifida means “cleft spine.” The condition occurs when the neural tube fails to close during embryonic development. The neural tube generally develops into the brain and spinal cord. As a result, the spinal vertebrae don’t close around the nerves. When some nerves are left exposed, it results in nerve damage. Thus, many patients with spina bifida experience some paralysis. Researchers are not sure what cause this condition. However, some hypothesize that it results from a lack of folic acid, as well as a blend of hereditary and environmental factors. While spina bifida can, in rare cases, develop during adolescence, it is usually clear at birth.
Forms & Symptoms
There are four main types of spina bifida. First, spina bifida occulta is the mildest and most common form. The spinal cord nerves develop normally, but the vertebrae are poorly formed. The nerves are covered by a layer of skin. Most patients with this form only experience back pain or poor bladder control. Next, closed neural tube defects occur when there are fat or bone malformations interrupting spinal development. Again, this form tends to have few symptoms, but may occur with poor bladder control and partial paralysis.
Third, meningocele occurs when the spinal cord develops normal but the meninges does not. The meninges, or the protective spinal cord covering, sticks out from a spinal opening, alongside spinal fluid. Symptoms include poor bladder control, bowel dysfunction, and total paralysis. Finally, the most severe form of spina bifida is myelomeninocele. In this form, both the spinal cord and meninges stick out from an opening in the spine. In addition to partial or total paralysis below this opening, many patients may experience bowel dysfunction and difficulty walking.
Other symptoms may include hydrocephalus, epilepsy, and intellectual or developmental delays. Learn more about spina bifida.