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Emory Autism Center celebrates new playground opening
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Jennifer Johnson McEwen
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Ribbon cutting for the new EAC playground.

The Emory Autism Center is celebrating the grand opening of a new playground, designed to promote inclusion and belonging for children with and without autism. The playground is part of the Early Emory Inclusive Pre-School and Pre-K program, pivotal to the center's mission of fostering an authentic sense of belonging throughout the lifespan.

Early Emory enrolls 65 children, maintaining a 1:2 ratio of autistic to neurotypical peers. This inclusive environment encourages children to play, learn and grow together, and the new playground further supports this mission. A play structure for children ages 1 to 5 includes a ground-level ramp and climbing tunnel to help develop skills and confidence. Larger play elements challenge older children, allowing them to scale heights and choose multiple ways to descend.

The playground features numerous social spaces, such as a daisy-shaped water table, a climbing net that can hold four children at once and a family-style picnic table. Quiet areas are also available for children who need a moment to themselves, including spaces behind a letterboard and under stairs.

“We are thrilled to unveil our new playground, a space designed to foster inclusion and belonging,” says Mikle South, director of the Emory Autism Center. “This playground represents our commitment to creating environments where children with and without autism can play, learn and grow together. It’s more than just a play area; it’s a foundation for building empathy, compassion and lifelong connections.”

Emory Autism Center faculty and staff attended the June 28 ribbon-cutting event to unveil the new playground. Special guests included Early Emory students and families, Emory University President Gregory L. Fenves, Ravi Thadhani, executive vice president for health affairs and director of the Woodruff Health Sciences Center and Alistair Erskine, vice president of digital health for Emory University.

The Emory Autism Center, celebrating its 33rd anniversary, provides a wide range of services from early diagnostic assessments to counseling, behavioral and medical support. The center is a collaboration between Emory University, Emory Healthcare, public and private partners and the regional autism community, offering support throughout individuals' entire lives.

For more information, please visit the Emory Autism Center website.

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