BIXBY, Okla. — The simple joy of swinging and running around on the playground isn’t always possible for some.
Like 11-year-old Ben and 7-year-old Lakyn Jo, two Bixby West students in wheelchairs.
“As a special needs mom, you just want your child to fit in," said Billie Jo Thomas, Lakyn Jo's mother.
“A lot of watching, sitting on the sidelines," said Joy Easley, Ben's mother. "Kind of, you know, cheering on his friends, but not really getting to be involved.”
So, Bixby West Elementary and Intermediate schools decided to do something about it. Its two special education teachers called for more inclusivity, which includes a new wheelchair swing that is now at the elementary school. A grant from the Bixby Educational Endowment Foundation and parent and PTO support paid for the swing.
“I have not seen any other school in Oklahoma, not that I know of, that has this structure," said Libby McNamara, principal of Bixby West Elementary. "It’s definitely a rarity. But I think it should be something that should be provided for every school if they’re able to get it.”
McNamara said she’s proud of how her students come together and interact with their classmates, making sure they’re not alone.
“One of the best parts about this was seeing Lakyn Jo on the swing and having her first-grade friends behind her, wanting to cheer on and push her," McNamara said. "Ben had a fan club out there, so they’re really loved.”
For Ben and Lakyn Jo’s parents, the comfort of seeing them have fun and getting to play with their friends on the playground.
“It’s kind of hard to describe, having your kid go from having nothing to do and then having him be included in the group, included in the fun," Easley said. "There’s just nothing like seeing him be excited about that.”
“It is pure joy seeing her interact with the other kids who are fully capable of doing things," Thomas said. "It honestly helped calm my fears that she can fit in.”
Bixby West is hoping to get an even more permanent piece of playground equipment that will be inclusive for all students. You can donate to the GoFundMe for it here.
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