When we think back on our own childhoods, most of us remember spending carefree summer days in the great outdoors. We spent countless hours creating, planting, building, and exploring. We probably didn’t even realize the great benefits that came from time outside, including higher academic achievement, improved motor skills, better concentration, quality sleep time, improved problem solving, and so many others.
For autistic children, however, time outdoors means these benefits and more. For example, some autistic children experience improved communication, increased cognition, improved socialization skills, and an increased sense of calm or decreased sensitivity. Before heading outdoors, though, you’ll need to consider three essentials for making your green space ready.
Backyards can contain a number of hidden dangers that are often overlooked, so be sure to take these specific safety measures into consideration.
- According to a University of Sciences in Philadelphia study, drowning is the leading cause of death among children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). If you are fortunate enough to have a backyard pool for your child to enjoy, make sure to take the extra precautionary step of installing a pool alarm. These alarms are triggered when pool waves are created by someone or something entering the water.
- Forty-nine percent of children with ASD have a tendency to wander or run from safe settings, according to a 2012 study. For these reasons, you’ll want to make sure you’ve installed a child-safe fence or gate.
- Poison ivy isn’t the only nuisance that lingers in your backyard, be sure to remove berries, flowers, and all poisonous plants that are dangerous to your children. Consider purchasing a good pair of gloves to help you remove them.
There are plenty of ways to make your backyard fun and more learning-friendly. A perfect functioning backyard for a child with ASD should combine fun, learning, and quiet space.
- Trampoline and swing therapy are both proven to benefit children with ASD, so consider installing a trampoline with safety netting and/or a swingset.
- Create a sensory garden. Gardening has many benefits for children, including reducing stress, teaching them to eat healthier, improved memory and focus, and promoting self-confidence.
- Make a sandbox where children can practice writing, bury treasures, and build magnificent sandcastles.
- Install a chalkboard for creative drawing and learning outdoors.
- Make sure to include a calming space to allow your child a comfortable place to wind down from potential over stimulation.
If your child uses a wheelchair, you’ll need to consider some backyard modifications to make the space more handicap accessible, such as a wheelchair ramp from the home to the space and leveled wheelchair-friendly sidewalks or paths to navigate the area.
Use these tips to provide your child a place to relax on warm summer days. Invite some friends over so your child can enjoy showing them their new and exciting space. Finally, sit back, relax, and enjoy watching your child learn, imagine, and grow.
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