New Playground Brings Music and Smiles - Morgan Autism Center, San Jose, California

  • Project: Outdoor Musical Playground
  • Location: San Jose, California USA
  • Client: Morgan Autism Center
  • Project Team: Specified Play Equipment Company (SPEC)
  • Project Funding: Girls Scouts of America Gold Award project (Megana Arunarthi)
  • Project Goals: To Assist Students with Personal Interactions and Communication Skills

About the Morgan Autism Center

The Morgan Autism Center in San Jose, California has a mission to help adults and children with autism or other developmental disabilities maximize their potential in a positive and loving environment. Since 1969, the Morgan Autism Center has provided individual educational, rehabilitative, prevocational and independent living skills programs in the greater San Francisco Bay Area. They work to increase awareness about autism and promote the sharing of the latest research and information. Aged from 3-22, the students may have severe disorders of perception, language, learning, and behavior. Students may have suffered a brain injury or be living with severe aphasia, autism, hyperactivity, behavior disorders, cerebral palsy, birth defects, hearing or visual impairments. Most pupils will exhibit significant developmental delays, particularly in the area of language.

The Project

This bright and colourful outdoor music garden was designed and created by Specified Play Equipment Company™ (SPEC) the leading supplier and installer of park and playground equipment in Northern California. It comprises a set of Rainbow Sambas, cheerful posies of Harmony Flowers and an inviting Cadenza.

Autism is a condition defined by an individual’s inability to communicate and interact with others and it is apparent that for an individual living with autism, music may well be the most effective, as well as one of the most accessible, forms of therapy available to them. Brad Boardman-Executive Director of the Morgan Autism Center wanted to create the music garden following research into the benefits of music. He told us “Music benefits people of all ages and abilities. Besides stimulating both hemispheres of the brain, music opens up an alternate avenue for communication. People with autism can often struggle to interact with others. By playing music together, our students can make interpersonal connections in a way that works for them”.

This echoes the research we carried out when writing our White Paper: Sounds and The Spectrum: The Benefits of Music for Autistic Children. We discovered that autistic children often have great difficulty interacting with others and music encourages reciprocal communicative behavior which can help them overcome these difficulties. By introducing an instrument into the autistic child’s environment they have an opportunity to initially connect with the instrument in a non-threatening, non-pressurized way which means that opening up to others who are also interacting with the instruments becomes part of the organic process of communication.


The project was funded through the efforts of young local high school student Megana Arunarthi who wanted to make a difference in her community and chose the Morgan Autism Center musical garden as her Girls Scouts of America Gold Award project. Megana raised the money largely through reaching out and presenting her project goals to people within her own circles including friends and family. After incredibly raising well over half the required amount, she then approached local companies to match funds which resulted in her successfully raising the full $13,000 needed for equipment, tax, freight, and installation.

The Outcome

“Our students are overjoyed with the new Percussion Play Outdoor Music elements,” Brad tells us. “Morgan Autism Center is so happy with the products SPEC recommended and the straight forward services they provided. SPEC was awesome to work with. It was clear from the moment we met them that they knew what they were doing. They were honest, passionate, and super knowledgeable about serving our special needs population. They provided discounts on equipment and provided a stressfree, simple process from start to finish. SPEC provided exactly what we wanted, on-time and under budget.”

Following the successful installation, David Yosso, founder of SPEC told us “As a preferred reseller of Percussion Play, SPEC appreciates the tremendous quality and service we receive. Over the past 15 years, we’ve seen the demand for outdoor music grow and many manufacturers have tried to enter the market. Percussion Play provides the highest quality outdoor music elements at a reasonable price. We appreciate their commitment and passion for what they do. SPEC values our relationship with Percussion Play as our mutual passion for play is our purpose.”

About Play Spec

Specified Play Equipment Company™ (SPEC) was founded by David Yosso. He has built a team of experts in Play, Sport, and Park fully dedicated to the companies Mission and Purpose. SPEC™ consults, designs, collaborates and constructs self-regulated play experiences for all ages and abilities to exercise risk, failure, and mastery. Yosso hand selects the manufacturers he works with and only considers independent manufacturers with mutual philosophies on Play, Sport, and Park. You can find out more about their work at

Further Reading

For further reading, the Percussion Play White Paper: Sounds and The Spectrum: The Benefits of Music for Autistic Children explores how music is helping those with autism find their voice and thrive.