A few years ago I was contacted by a family that lives about an hour from me with a special request. They were looking for a picnic table for their 20 year old son who has autism. They had just spent a lot of money buying a picnic table online, only to be disappointed in its poor quality construction and impractical design. I was more than willing to help and rebuild their confidence. These are the kind of projects I really enjoy. They needed a table that was easy for their son to get in and out of. Most picnic table seats are set on A-frame type supports where you have to climb over the seat to sit down, and that wasn’t going to work. By the time I got off the phone, I had an idea in my head of what it would need to look like. I drew up the plans and they agreed to have me build it.
Instead of the typical A-frame found on standard picnic tables, I used two ground-level beams to suspend the benches on. This provided a clear path to slide in and out of the seats from the sides. As you can see from the photo, everything is held together using 3/8" carriage bolts. For added appeal, I cut a landscape timber into several sections and braced them vertically under the table surface. Everything is made out of 2 x 6 lumber, with the exception of the 4 x 4 ground beams and the 2 x 4 center support. I rounded all the corners of the table top and the benches so there would be no corners or edges in case he stumbled.
I had to deliver the picnic table to them in pieces and assemble it on site. I was working by myself and that table was quite heavy. The whole family came out to watch, and her son was the most excited. For me, this was one of the most memorable projects I've built. I can still see him sitting in the middle of that big table when it was all done with a huge smile on his face. He knew that table was made just for him. It was a very special moment!