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“How to make your garden autism friendly”

These have been challenging times, to say the least, for countless parents. Going through lockdowns, then things reopening at a limited capacity, then talks of more lockdowns in some areas — such drastic changes in routine and the uncertainty of what life will be like next week, month, or year can take its toll. And when you have a child on the autism spectrum, you have additional challenges to consider.

But, in whatever safe ways are available, your child needs to spend quality time outdoors. And, if you have a garden, it can be the perfect space for your child to enjoy outdoor activities. Along with understanding the benefits of your child being outside, you may have to make a few changes so that your garden accommodates your child's specific needs.

Benefits of outdoor play

There are many benefits to engaging in outdoor activities for children. Being outdoors can do wonders for improving your child’s attention span. Vitamin D is essential for the health of your child’s bones, muscles, nerves, and immune system, and sunlight is the best source for it. Along with providing exercise, outdoor play can help with the development of your child’s fine and gross motor skills. And there are also plenty of potential mental, social, and emotional benefits to playing outside

Activities to consider

Here are a few ideas for outdoor activities that can benefit children on the autism spectrum:

  • Play 'sink or float' with items in the garden (e.g., leaves, rocks, flowers) for a good sensory activity.
  • Put together a scavenger hunt for your child to engage multiple senses.
  • Design a garden that will also provide your child with a great overall sensory play. Arrange a back garden camping night for the whole family to enjoy.
Increasing safety and accessibility

Of course, it’s critical to ensure that your garden is safe and accessible for your child.

  • If you haven’t already, put in a fence or similar barrier to keep your child from wandering off.
  • Make sure your garden is clear of toxic plants, standing water, pet waste, fertiliser, and other hazards.
  • Add a safe place where your child can escape over-stimulation, such as a tube in which they can comfortably fit.
  • If you are lucky enough to have a pool, make sure your child learns how to swim, and install a pool alarm.

Now more than ever, children need to be outside. Consider the benefits of spending time outside, as well as the ideas listed here for transforming your backyard into an autism-friendly space. Not only will it help your child stay engaged in fun, educational activities, but it can also provide the whole family with ways to spend quality time together.

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