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A therapeutic landscape for children with autism


It may look like a schoolyard to anyone else, but for kids on the spectrum it’s a safe place to interact with other children and be comfortable in an environment that creatively responds to their needs.

“My main goal was to provide different opportunities for children with autism to be able to interact in their environment without being segregated from the rest of the school,” said Chelsey King, master’s student in landscape architecture, St. Peters, MO. “I didn’t want that separation to occur.”

This schoolyard is not the minefield many autistic children and their families face when confronted with a typical play structure park. It provides clear boundaries, a variety of activities and activity level spaces, places where the children can go when overstimulated, opportunities for a variety of sensory input and a variety of ways to communicate and play with other children.

“The biggest issue with traditional schoolyards is that they are completely open but also busy and crowded in specific areas,” Kind explained. “This can be too overtimulating for a person with autism. . .I was able to determine that therapies and activities geared toward sensory stimulation, cognitive development, communication skills, and fine and gross motor skills,-- which traditionally occur in a classroom setting – could be integrated into the schoolyard.”

She incorporated a music garden with instruments, an edible garden for horticulture therapy, sensory panels for different types of stimulation, a butterfly garden and a variety of alcoves where children can experience solitude and regain self-control when overstimulated.

Source: MedicalNewsToday, Kansas State University

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