Gardening for those with Autism and Special Needs


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In our modern society filled with stress, getting “back to the garden” is a good idea for everyone. According to a 2010 report released by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), teaching gardening to special needs children and young people is especially conducive to their development. Gardening is practical and process-orientated, suiting the visual and learning-through-doing needs of this group perfectly.

Ninety-five students with various developmental disorders, including autism, participated in a year-long study of teaching gardening in school. Over the course of the study, the avid gardeners grew in confidence and became more engaged in the activities, embracing a new level of responsibility for their own learning and progress. Interactions with one another and with adults improved as participants who once only wanted to work alone developed as members of a team. The students themselves reported that gardening calmed them down and made them happy.

Gardening can also be a gateway to meaningful future employment for young adults with autism. The first farm model for adults with autism was established at Somerset Court in England in 1974. 

BitterSweet Farms in Ohio is the first of its kind in the United States and currently has three campuses providing comprehensive services to individuals with autism. In North Carolina, Carolina Living and Learning Center is part of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. New Hampshire-based Farmsteads of New England was established in 2000, and now Full Spectrum Farms in North Carolina has enjoyed huge success in its first year of operation, providing fresh fruit, vegetables and flowers to local restaurants and meaningful work to its residents with autism.

The quiet, simple life and meaningful work of farming is conducive to the well-being of individuals with autism. Whether you garden with your child on acreage, in your yard or with pots on your apartment balcony, the benefits are great. Here are some tips for gardening with your special needs child, courtesy of Gardening-Guides.com:

* Paint your gardening tool handles a bright color so you can easily spot them when you’ve set them down.
* Improve your grip. Use colorful electrician’s or bicycle tape to add foam padding to hard-to-hold gardening tool handles.
* Go for the lightweight. Tools don’t have to be heavy to be sturdy. Aluminum handled and fiberglass reinforced nylon tools are both strong and lightweight. 
* Consider handle extenders for short tools. 
* Replace old and broken garden tools and tool handles with ergonomically correct models.

7 Responses to Gardening for those with Autism and Special Needs

  1. Great post! I just linked to it from my website, http://www.specialparent.com

  2. Susan says:

    Thanks! And I’m glad to learn of your website!

    SM

  3. At The Special People,gardening activities have been part our centre’s curriculum since 1998. The founder of the centre, Ms Mastura is a qualified Landscape Horticulturist and a Special education teacher.

    Gardening really help the students.
    Check out our facebook : mastura@littlegarden.

    Well done to all.

  4. Susan Moffitt says:

    Thanks for the info.

  5. As a retired teacher , I have been working with students in grs.6 to 8 to maintain the topiary and gardens at
    J H Putman middle school in ottawa , Ontario.
    Next year , an autism unit will be added to the school .
    I’ve been asked to work with these students in the gardens , and with maintaining an atrium. .
    We. Will also have a chance to grow vegetables and annuals from seed .
    Any advice ?

  6. Any advice on how to insistence such a program ?
    there is a new unit in the middle school where I work with students
    Who benefit from a break now and then.I work mainly with the behaviour classes .

  7. This site was… how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I’ve found something which helped me.
    Many thanks!

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Did You Know?

  • * In 1970, Autism affected 1 out of 10,000 children
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