Many children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can have issues with sensory integration, their bodies have issues with either over-stimulation or under-stimulation.
Sensory integration dysfunction can affect all of the senses, including the five traditional senses of touch, hearing, taste, sight and smell, as well as both their vestibular and proprioception senses and systems. In addition to these are other powerful, yet subtle senses, for example our haptic sense, i.e. our awareness of our body in space. Other senses include our sense of gravity, temperature and our sense of space and enclosure.
Sensory gardens are therapeutic gardens that specifically focus on stimulating as many of the senses as possible and can be particularly powerful for assisting individuals with sensory integration issues. For those with under-stimulated systems, a sensory garden can be an excellent way for children to increase their sensory stimulation and improve children’s interaction with their environment. For those who suffer from over-stimulated sensory integration issues, a sensory garden can be an extremely useful tool for gradually increasing sensory stimulation and improving integration skills.
Sensory gardens can be designed in different ways, either as standalone gardens or part of a larger therapeutic garden for children with ASD. However, given that some children suffer from extreme sensory overload, whilst others are under-stimulated through their senses, there are some principles that you should adhere to when designing a sensory garden for children with autism.
The goal of sensory gardens
The primary goal of sensory gardens is the heighten interaction with nature. Your sensory garden should not be a passive space but rather a place to enjoy all of the wonders of nature, particularly for children.
Well-planned spaces will also help to facilitate a number of therapies available to ASD children, such as horticultural therapy, nature as therapy and sensory integration therapy.
To read more about how to create sensory gardens you can read our section on Sensory Gardens in our resource ‘Therapeutic Gardens for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder’. Learn more..