Growth and development of all children are measured across several dimensions and children may vary greatly on the basis of these dimensions. For example children who stand at the last position in physical size may be at the top of the scale for intellectual development, or children with advanced motor skills may have poor social development. Children with special needs encounter unusual challenges along one or more dimensions. Ideally, the playground environment will enable all children to use their strong areas to compensate for areas requiring further development. The well-designed universal playground provides experiences to challenge all skill areas, and to accommodate all developmental stages. Many children with special needs require more support in the areas of social/emotional development than do
other children. Children with a physical, or a sensory disability may have had limited opportunities to interact with other children, or may have seen treated differently by the children they did encounter. Emotional immaturity is more commonly found in children with special needs particularly, until they acquire the experience required to develop acceptable social behavior. Children with severe social or emotional problems may lack internal controls, or may be too internalized to be readily accepted by other children. Children with limited intellectual development often respond socially and emotionally like younger children. The universal playground environment should have areas that encourage social interaction and be easily supervised. Children with special needs usually have a normal intellectual development. However, it may be more difficult for some with pronounced physical sensory, motor or emotional challenges to demonstrate this. Play areas which encourage intellectual exchanges can help facilitate integration among all children. Children who lack in intellectual development require experiences to enhance social, emotional and motor development. The universal playground needs to have a broad range of equipment and activities which appeal to all children, regardless of intellectual development. Although many children have visual irregularities or hearing difficulties, severe vision or hearing disabilities is very low. Children with severe visual impairments become more dependent on other senses, especially hearing and touch. For children with low vision the playground design and equipment incorporating texture, manipulative devices, bright colors, and sound are particularly helpful. In recent years, a large number of children with severe visual impairments have multiple handicapping conditions. This actually leads to the need for creativity in terms of including them in group play activities.