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Letchworth State Park adapting to meet needs of people on autism spectrum

Local News

Each year thousands of visitors take in the sights and sounds of the natural beauty at Letchworth State Park.

“One of the things that came up was the calming influence that the park has on so many people,” said Loren Penman, Autism Nature Trail Planning Committee Co-chair.

For people on the autism spectrum, the calming influence can have a big impact. Penman is part of a planning committee for a special nature trail at the park. Their goal is to make it autism friendly.

“The eight stations and three features that are part of this trail will be something for everyone, we hope but in particular those who have sensory processing and sensory integration issues,” said Penman.

The trail will be about a mile and quarter long, with special sensory stations along the way.

“Gliders instead of regular benches, things that promote movement and balance and the ability to exercise those large muscles as well,” said Penman.

Nancy Braaten, of Geneseo, comes to Letchworth State Park often and has three grand children with autism.

“This is going to work,” said Braaten. “I’ve taken my grandchildren places where we’ve had to leave. They’re going to be here, they’re going to be happy, comfortable, they’re going to be learning.”

It will be a unique experience for a growing population of people on the spectrum.

“If a visitor wants to spend all day at one station that’s just fine, there will be nobody to say time to move along,” said Penman.

The planning committee is hoping to have the Autism Nature Trail up and running before the 2018 season is over.

So far they’ve raised more than $850,000, and they’re currently seeking donations to reach their goal of $4.4 million.

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