We started our horticultural therapy session in a special school which helps kids with Autism. There are around 25 children in various age groups having symptoms of mild to moderate levels of Autism. We started our program with a primary observational assessment. After that process, we compared the assessment with case reports that the school had for each child. Later we prepared our own case report for each child as part of the documentation process.
We started our session with a small garden. In the beginning, we engaged them with common and general gardening activities to know how much they were interested in plants and nature. It was a great experience to see how they were enjoying outdoors than indoors. I had a chat with parents to make them understand what we are doing with their children. They were really excited and encouraged us to move forward.
While giving sessions to each child, we witnessed some miracles that happen in children thanks to nature. In the group, there are hyper and hypo sensitive children, with different sensory issues like mouthing, tactile, sound, motor skill issues, hand-eye coordination and the list goes on like this. One common fact I observed in these children was, whenever they touched soil they become calm, quiet and very comfortable.
There is a child in the centre who is always talking, singing, shouting, and running around the class. Sometimes she becomes very hyper and cries loudly. One day she was in a hyper mood and I took her for her first session. Without any interest, she came with me, singing and talking some Tamil advertisement loudly.
I started with a garden walk and watering of some plants. But it made no apparent impact on her except that she enjoyed watering a little. Then, too, she was continued with her self-conversation without any break. I kept some filtered red soil in a tray before the session for the soil mixing activity. I gave that tray to her and showed her what to do with that. She looked curiously and started playing with the soil. The moment she touches the soil, she stopped all the chatter and started to concentrate on what she was doing. She continued this activity quietly till I said enough. During the activity, I sprinkled some soil to her hand and she expressed that she was getting goose bumps! The activity continued for 10 minutes and after that I took her again to the garden for repeating the activities that I had done at the beginning. She followed all the instructions without showing any hesitation with fewer instances of self-talking than earlier. The session extended 30 minutes.
After she touched the soil, there was a significant change in her hyperactivity throughout the session. It was a great experience for me and I was amazed that I could see the impact in the first session itself even though it lasted for a lesser duration of time. Will continue sharing our experience with the children. Hope you also enjoyed reading this. Keep in touch.