Outdoor Activities for Children with Autism
"Take children out and teach them about the Earth...uncover that stone that's been sitting there for a while and watch all the little bugs...just get to know them. Plant a garden...work with the Earth."
- Dr. Steven Farmer
I recently read an article called "The Benefits of Outdoor Activities for Children with Autism." In this article, the authors interviewed special education teachers, volunteers, and parents of children with autism. Based on analyzing these interviews, the authors concluded that the parents, volunteers, and teachers believed spending time outdoors and doing outdoor activities had seven main benefits/improvements for the children with autism:
- Physical activity,
- Cognition, and
- Sensory sensitivity.
The article is interesting, and you can read it by clicking here.
I haven't seen much research strictly on the benefits of being outside or in nature, as most studies I found focused on social skills during structured outdoor activities, such as the research listed below. Some Research on Structured Outdoor Activities:
Using Embedded Music Therapy Interventions to Support Outdoor Play of Young Children with Autism in an Inclusive Community-Based Child Care Program
I Wanna Play Too: Factors Related to Changes in Social Behavior for Children With and Without Autism Spectrum Disorder After Implementation of a Structured Outdoor Play Curriculum
These studies are great, but I'm interested in you have any tips for getting your child or students connected with nature via gardening, birdwatching, etc. Please feel free to share in the comments. I would like to write a future blog post with your tips, so any ideas you have are much appreciated. Thanks!
My best tip for outdoor activities for children with autism is to incorporate your child's interests into outdoor play. In the photo at the top of this post, my son is using his water gun to water some seeds we just planted. He had so much fun with this! Think about ways that you can do things your child already enjoys outside. As another example, if your child loves trains, can you build an train track outdoors and decorate around the train track with natural materials you find outdoors?
One of my favorite sources for fun outdoor activity ideas is Tinkergarten.
Please share some of your tips in the comments!
Work with Dr. Caldwell
Dr. Caldwell offers math and science tutoring, as well as works with children with autism in their homes on communication and social skills during play-based activities. Learn more here.