Who would have known that gardening could help autistic children? Yes, through this simple act, children with autism, learn to communicate, cooperate and process emotions better! Know how!
By Shaila Hegde
Horticulture therapy explores the relationship between people and plants to improve the social, cognitive, physical and psychological health and well-being of participants.
The Asha Integrated School for children with Autism tried out this therapy on a group of 16 children, between the ages of 6 to 12 years and met with success. Many autistic children have sensory issues, obsessive compulsive disorders and are hyperactive. The older children also have emotional and behavioural issues.
After the first six months of therapy, during which the children were split into small groups, it was found that work etiquette improved in children. They were able to observe, concentrate and sit for longer periods. After gardening, children become calm overall, and some become positively happy because of the activity. Self-esteem improves and some social skills are cultivated. This therapy should help children integrate better into the mainstream of life.
Exposure to garden: Increases motivation and feeling of security, improves sensory and perceptual abilities, relieves stress and anxiety.
Exposure to watering: Increases attention span, improves ability to work independently, increases perceptual abilities. Speed and accuracy improve with practice, thus enhancing coordination and concentration levels.
‘Growing media’ preparation (Mixing sand, coco peat and mud): Increases creativity, helps them figure out colour subtleties of the media, improves hand function and fine motor coordination.
Tray and bag filling for planting: Improves dexterity, relieves stress and anxiety, improves fine motor and gross motor skills, helps maintain posture and improves coordination.
Seed sowing: Improves concentration and attention span, increases finger- ground perception.
Transplanting rooted plants: Improves fine motor and gross motor function, hand function and concentration, attention and coordination.
It is not necessary that children must do all the gardening activities mentioned, although there is no harm in it. Specific activities can be chosen that are in line with goals that need to be met, in consultation with the doctor.
As part of the therapy, these activities should be carried out under adult supervision and continued at home. Autistic children, like many passionate gardeners, discover happiness in planting things and watching them grow. So, time to get those gardening tools ready!
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