Using a new pulley system designed to makes McCormick Park's ropes course accessible to those with physical disabilities, Mark Cash was hoisted into the air from his wheelchair.

"People were saying, 'Hey, I don't think is going to work,' and we made it work," said Meg Rogosienski with Missoula Parks and Recreation.

Rogosienski, who works as an outdoor recreation specialist, was one of the organizers of a training seminar Monday that focused on adapting activities so they are inclusive to people of all abilities.

The training was attended by around 50 representatives from organizations like the Flagship Program, Splash Montana, Sylvan Learning Center, the University of Montana, Montana Natural History Center and Butte-Silver Bow Parks and Recreation that have child-focused events or activities.

"We want to show that with basic adaptations, communication and outreach we can make programs that are inclusive to everyone," Rogosienski said.

Starting next week, Parks and Rec will hold the first in a series of fully inclusive summer camps for kids in Missoula, called Reach More, designed so kids of all ability levels can play together.

"There's going to be whitewater rafting, fishing, the ropes course, we hired an artist to come in and teach, we'll also have yoga," Rogosienski said. "I feel just as confident, from partnerships in the community and training, to accommodate any type of adventure that person wants."

She said the response to the camps from the public has been immense.

"I've had parents crying on the phone to me, saying finally, there is a place for my child," she said.

The plan is to have the inclusive training held annually, and continue to grow the number of groups and activities involved.


Before getting onto the ropes course themselves, attendees heard from Molly Blair, from the University of Montana physical therapy school’s New Directions Wellness Center, about working with people with disabilities, and Cash, a wheelchair user who exercises at New Directions.

Blair said it's important to talk with a person to hear directly from them what type of assistance, if any, they would appreciate.

"They know what works for them and what doesn't," she said.

The training seminar is the latest effort in a partnership between the Child Development Center, the city's Parks and Rec department, and Easter Seals-Goodwill, the organizations that worked together to make the Reach More camps a reality.

Stacey McClure, family support specialist with the Child Development Center, said while they have and will continue to provide their own summer programs focused on children with disabilities, they also heard from families frustrated at not having a place to enroll their kids in a more traditional summer camp setting.

She started a conversation with Rogosienski, as well as Abbey Hood with Easter Seals-Goodwill, who works with kids on the autism spectrum to develop social skills.

"I think Parks and Rec is a great model for the rest of the city," McClure said.

Earlier Monday, the training seminar participants focused on adapting programs to children with developmental disabilities instead of physical ones.

Karen Oberg, an occupational therapist with Integrated TherapyWorks, said the training examined tactics for including kids with behavioral issues, or how to make sure children had visual components that helped them understand the structure and rules of an activity.

McClure said the idea of inclusive participation doesn't mean that every child has to be able to do exactly the same activity in the same way. For someone on the autistic spectrum, she said, just getting to sit and watch other kids play baseball might be fulfilling.

"If they weren't here, they would just be at home, with no interaction at all," she said.

Oberg said if a camp was sending kids onto the ropes course in the park, that doesn't mean every participant might be ready for that big of a step.

"For them, just getting to put on the helmet might be a big deal," she said.

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