If you have a child with Autistic Spectrum Disorder, there is a good chance you have experienced days where sensory details such as the texture of a snack or the sound of a fire engine have overwhelmed your child, resulting in a meltdown. You are not alone: difficulty processing sensory information is a common symptom of ASD.
A great way to lessen sensory difficulties is through the use of sensory integration therapy, according to a recent study carried out by the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. An effective way to do your own sensory integration therapy with your child is through the use of a sensory garden. Read on for some tips on how to make your own sensory garden at home, using plants and other items that provide stimulation for all the senses. It doesn't matter if your garden consists of a window box or a wide and meandering trail as long as it appeals to all the senses.
What to include in your garden
The aim of your sensory garden is to get your child to interact with it, so firstly, make sure that whatever you choose to put in your garden, it is safe if your child decides to nibble on it. The plants you choose must be sturdy as well, so they can handle all the interaction and don't fall apart at the first rub! Base what you choose on the senses:
- Touch – Every plant and flower has a different texture, whether it be hairy, course or smooth, so choose plants that are quite varied in texture. Go for things like silky lamb's ears, soft flowers, downy sage leaves, and rough bark. Encourage your child to feel the textures and try and describe them to you.
- Smell – The wonderful strong aroma of flowers and herbs will mean your garden is a thrill to smell. Go for fragrant flowers like jasmine and sweet pea, and include lots of herbs like lavender, mint, and curry. Show your child how you can release the aroma in a herb leaf by pressing it between the fingers.
- Sight – Most children love bright colours, so don't hold back. Some good plant and flowers to include would be sunflowers, marigolds, lavender, and plants that change colour as the seasons progress. You can also add colour with accessories like birdbaths, plant pots, and mobiles.
- Taste – You are spoilt for choice with this category! If you have the space, include some fruits and veggies in your garden, and plenty of herbs that your child can nibble on. Good ones to try are spearmint, rosemary, and chives.
- Sound – Make sure your garden has items that deliver a pleasing sound, such as wind chimes and trickling water. Your beautiful plants and flowers will encourage birds to visit your garden, who will create a chorus of their own!
For more information about safe plants to use, contact a local florist.