EXHAUSTED parents have launched a petition calling for a playground for kids with additional support needs (ASN) to reopen after they say it has been “left to rot” after Covid restrictions were lifted.

The Linn Park Adventure Playground near Clarkston is the only facility of its kind in the West of Scotland.

The inclusive park has an outdoor area with wheelchair-accessible swings and a roundabout, as well as an indoor space with a sensory room, soft play area and other activities catered to kids with ASN.

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Parents say it used to be the only safe space for their children to play freely and let off some steam, with families travelling from as far as Edinburgh to enjoy a day out.

However, the building is still closed after two years from the start of the pandemic, and parents say the playground is neglected and dangerous.

Newton Mearns mum Liz Ireland, who has attended the playground for a decade, said her son Jamie, 12, has been “robbed of a place he absolutely loved.”

She added: “I'm angry and disappointed and my son deserves better, all the children who are not neurotypical deserve better.

“The kids with ASN are only allowed to play outside at the moment, in the face of neurotypical children being able to get back into soft plays and stuff.”

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Liz, who works as a child development officer, has started a petition to fully reopen the venue and call for improvements, reaching nearly 1,500 signatures in a matter of days.

She said in the ten years she’s been attending, the playground never had any significant repairs.

On five occasions, she found it had to be closed because the sewage pipes were leaking into the kids’ sandpits.

She added: “Even pre-Covid, it was absolutely left to rot, it just feels like they haven’t put a penny into this and it’s completely unfair.”

Glasgow Life, who runs the facility, said it is assessing the works required and a phased reopening is planned from the start of this month.

Yet, this still causes problems to kids with ASN.

Liz said: “The thing with that is if you ask a child who is neurotypical to go in and use one part of a building and come out, that's okay.

“But we're talking about a child who has autism and very little communication or language.

“If you say to them, ‘you can go in, but you can only use one room’, they don't have the understanding to do that and it's going to lead to meltdowns and hurting themselves.

“To me it's just completely untenable.”

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Eaglesham mum Natalie Château, who is a full-time carer to three-year-old Jack, no longer wants to take her son to the playground.

She said: “It used to be a safe haven for kids like him but it’s not the nicest of places anymore, it’s very messy and dirty.

“I wrote several times asking for refurbishments and never got a reply.

“I’m exhausted, sad and upset because we already have to fight for everything for our kids and with it being the only park in the West of Scotland for children like my Jack, it’s horrendous.”

Natalie agrees that a phased reopening of the building would not work for the kids.

“My boy is non-verbal and has no understanding of language. He doesn't understand 'you can go here, but you can’t go there'.

“It would make him have meltdowns, so there's just no point in going if you have to restrict him to certain areas.

“So it's just making it more difficult for us to let them have the experiences and opportunities that they deserve.”

Barrhead dad Paul Dickson, said the playground was an “absolute godsend” for kids with ASN and parents alike.

Paul, who works as a pharmaceutical representative, and his wife used to take twins Luke and Eva, 10, every Sunday.

“My kids are both severely autistic but they're not judged there. If one of them is having a meltdown, no one bats an eyelid because we've all been through it.

“They can be themselves, they can be confident, and parents get sympathy and support and can share stories and advice.

“We really miss it, particularly the kids who, like many children with autism, are very routine-focused.”

Paul said the park is always packed at the weekend and it is not uncommon to see families from all over the Central Belt, and he wishes for a full reopening and refurbishment.

“It definitely needs some TLC as the facility has aged, things like the disabled swings and roundabout, they look quite rundown.

“But it needs to be fully reopened, these kids need space, a lot of them get overwhelmed, for example, if there are too many people in the sensory room.

“If I was to take my two they would expect to be able to use it like they've historically done.”

Busby mum Lindsay Gall also relies on the playground as a safe space for seven-year-old son Rory.

“In most other playgrounds you're constantly on edge,” she said. “You’re constantly wondering where they are, always on guard.

“At Linn Park you can relax and watch your kids play happily and it also gives us parents a chance to meet up and support each other, which is so important."

Brand manager Lindsay said Rory, who has Down Syndrome, would also face some difficulties with the facilities being only partly accessible and called for swift action to improve it. 

She added: “It’s really sad that it's been sort of left to go to a state of disrepair. 

“It’s just a mess really, especially when it's for kids with additional needs who might not have a sense of the danger, so you don't want rusty areas or anything like that.”

Three-year-old Arlo has never been able to enjoy the playground as it has been closed since he has been old enough to use it, despite the family being based in nearby Stamperland.

Dad Fraser McRae said having to take him to public parks has been a “daunting” experience as they are not suitable for kids with ASN.

“For us, it is the dangers of Arlo clambering over things that aren't really safe for him and him getting upset at the noise and nature of children happily playing who do not have the same obstacles in life.

“The use of a sensory room like the one at Linn Park would be simply incredible for Arlo.

“Resources like this for ASN children are few and far between, so they definitely need more investment.”

A spokesperson for Glasgow Life said: “We recognise that the facilities offered at Linn Park Adventure Playground are highly valued by children and their families.

“The outdoor services, along with indoor toilets and changing facilities at the venue, reopened to the public in May 2021.

“We are currently assessing the works required to repair the fencing surrounding the facility, and we will keep customers informed of the expected timescale for the repairs to take place.

“Glasgow Life is also working to reopen the indoor services on a phased basis. The sensory room will reopen for free, bookable sessions, from early March 2022.

“Thereafter, bookable activity sessions within the main hall will be made available, followed by the reintroduction of the soft play facility.

“Like all sectors, Glasgow Life has been experiencing challenges with the lead in time for recruitment due to the impact of the pandemic, and increasing services in Linn Park Adventure Playground is contingent on staff availability.

“As it has been throughout the pandemic, we remain committed to ensuring the health and safety of our staff and all users of Glasgow Life’s facilities.”

You can sign the petition here.