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Gardening Can Help Children With Autism Build Emotional And Cognitive Skills

Shaila Hegde Shaila Hegde 3 Mins Read

Shaila Hegde Shaila Hegde

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Who would have known that gardening could help children with autism? Yes, through this simple activity, they can learn to communicate, cooperate and process emotions better! Know how!

Pre-schooler to 18+
Gardening Can Help Children With Autism Build Emotional And Cognitive Skills
Time with nature can be immensely beneficial to children with autism

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 children have sensory issues, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and hyperactivity. The older children also have emotional and behavioral 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 better, concentrate, and sit for longer periods of time. The children became calmer and some felt happier.  Their self-esteem improved and some children were able to build social skills. This therapy could help children integrate better into mainstream life.

The benefits of gardening for children with autism:

Exposure to the garden: helps increase motivation and feelings of security because of improved sensory and perceptual abilities, and relief from stress and anxiety.

Exposure to watering plants: helps increase the child's attention span and perceptual abilities, improves the ability to work independently. Speed and accuracy improve with practice, thus enhancing coordination and concentration levels.

'Growing medium' preparation (Mixing sand, coco peat, and mud):  helps increase creativity, helps figure out color subtleties of the medium, improves hand function and fine motor coordination.

Tray and bag filling for planting: Improves fine motor and gross motor skills, coordination, and dexterity; helps maintain posture, and relieves stress and anxiety.

Seed sowing: helps improve concentration and attention span, increases finger-ground perception.

Transplanting rooted plants: helps improve fine motor and gross motor function, hand function, attention and concentration, and coordination.

It is not necessary that children must do all the gardening activities mentioned above, although there is no harm in it. The therapist can choose specific activities that are in line with the therapeutic goals that need to be met, in consultation with the specialist.

Some activities to try

  • Flower decoration using yellow, red, and other colored flowers in a urali (brass bowl)
  • Jelly-packing mixed with colors to decorate pots
  • Filling coco peat (coconut coir compost) in pots
  • Filling pots with soil
  • Using hand trowels (big and small)
  • Watering seedlings with a garden sprayer
  • Watering grown plants with a hose or watering can
  • Filling plug trays
  • Seed sowing in plug tray cells
  • Picking/collecting dried leaves

As part of the therapy, these activities must be carried out under adult supervision and continued at home. Children with autism, 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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