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Barrie therapeutic clinic for children with autism wins national contest

A Barrie therapeutic clinic for children with autism is the winner of a national contest designed to get children outdoors and connect with nature.

"Seeing the joy as they are running and playing and climbing and all of that sensory-motor aspect has been awesome," said Tammy Frazer, founder of On Solid Ground.

On Solid Ground was randomly chosen from over 8,000 entries as part of Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds 2022 OutClass Early Learning Pod Giveaway.

The outdoor classroom includes a sand surface with horizontal and vertical log pieces to help promote physical development along with motor skills and socialization.

"This is the perfect serendipitous place to end up where we feel like we can actually help her program," said founder Adam Bienenstock.

When playgrounds were initially shut down by COVID-19, Bienenstock said he saw an opportunity to get kids outside by creating outdoor classrooms.

"It was a pandemic thought at first, but it's also something that filled a need," said Bienenstock.

For Frazer, providing an outdoor space was her dream and vision.

"For children with autism specifically, really being able to develop the creativity and curiosity that they wouldn't get in a classroom or one-on-one, adds to the overall whole child growth and development," said Frazer.

The therapeutic clinic settled into its new location about a month ago, and this is the first time it's had an outdoor space.

Over the last three years, Bienenstock said more than 20,000 schools and childcare centres across North America had made requests.

He added time and nature is now a key health indicator on the Active Healthy Kids Canada report card.

"We're not doing a particularly good job right now. The more sensory the play is, the longer it will hold the child's attention, the more exercise they get, the healthier they become," said Bienenstock.

The contest opens again on Friday, with a winner chosen by the end of the school year.

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