Autism and Nature
By: Christina Hughey
“If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with Autism”
No two people with autism are exactly alike. Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder comes with a wide range of skills, abilities, and disabilities. Autism is caused by a combination of genetic and/or environmental causes. People with autism commonly have an average IQ or even an above average IQ. People with autism do often struggle with social interaction and social settings and they also may have repetitive patterns or restricted interests. Having Autism often comes with unique strengths, difficulties in some areas, and unique differences.
Some common characteristics of people with autism include: honesty, passionate, living in the moment, terrific memory, and so much more.
People with autism are often thought to see the world from a different point of view. Here are a few words people used to describe their loved one with autism: Lovely, Intelligent, talents outshine his difficulties, loves the outdoors, big hearted, and simply the best.
What role does nature play in a person’s life with autism? Getting outside is especially important for someone with autism. Healing gardens, horticultural therapy, and therapeutic landscapes will all benefit. It has been said that people can feel relief as soon as they step into a garden. Nature can truly be therapeutic. Gardening can provide direction and the opportunity to practice multiple steps. People with autism benefit from being in nature because it provides an opportunity to interact with others. The outdoors provides a place for social interaction as well as social topics for conversation.
Everyone with autism is different. I interviewed Andrew Eiring a 20-year-old who is on the autism spectrum. He is a role model to many. Andrew Eiring has a full-time job and even works over time. He lives independently with his significant other. Andrew enjoys playing video games, driving around, playing and watching sports in his free time. He is also one of the nicest people I have ever had the pleasure to meet, in fact everyone who meets Andrew seems to automatically like him. He is just an overall great person.
Here are some questions I asked Andrew:
Q: Andrew tell me some things about yourself.
A: I love watching sports. I like attending hockey games, baseball games, and football games.
Q: When were you diagnosed with Autism?
A: “I was diagnosed with Autism at the age of 3.”
Q: What struggles do you face?
A: “I struggle with a few things. I have trouble staying focused, I’m easily getting distracted and wondering off with my thoughts. I also find myself overreacting often about many things.”
Q: Do you feel more relaxed in nature?
A: “I feel relaxed in nature. I like to listen to all the sounds of nature. Nature is my thing, I love being outdoors.”
Q: What are your favorite outdoor activities?
A: “I enjoy playing football and baseball with my brother and friends.”
Q: Have you ever attended a horticultural therapy program?
A: “I have not.”
Q: If able would you attend a horticultural therapy program?
A: “I would, but I may get nervous around a lot of people.”
Q: Have you ever visited a healing garden?
A: “I have not.. yet.”
Q: Would you be interested in visiting a healing garden?
A: “ I would like to.”
I had such a wonderful time interviewing Andrew Eiring. I really appreciated hearing how he personally benefits from nature. I also wonder about the benefits he could have from visiting a healing garden. In fact, we could all benefit from visiting a healing garden.