You are on page 1of 3

SENSORY GARDEN FOR AUTISTIC CHILDREN

HYPERSENSITIVITY HYPOSENSITIVITY

TOUCH • Grouping of plants according to textures • Wild garden with a mix of course, fine and
• Avoid lining pathways with long grasses or fast medium textures
growing plants • Include different type of tactile surfaces along
• Choose materials that are consistent in nature walkways like sand, crushed gravel etc.

SOUND • enclosed quiet space that is away from the • A person who seeks sensory input may not be
social areas of the garden able to tolerate silence and will create their own
• avoiding noisy substances such as gravel, and sounds by tapping and banging.
consider using sound-absorbent alternatives • Tapping on wood, metal and plastic will all
(for example cork, bark or sand) produce different sounds
• Mask unwanted noise with soothing sounds • Introduce sculptures and focal points made of
such as water or swishing grasses. materials that amplify the sound of the rain
• Include nectar-producing plants and feeders to
attract birds

SMELL • Choose scented plants and flowers that will • Position seating close to scented plants so that
only release their scent when rubbed. olfactory memory aids navigation
• Group fragrant plants into types (fresh, floral, • Consider planting non-slip creepers or herbs near
spicy and sweet) and place them into pots so the path edges so that when you walk on the
that they are movable plant, it will release an aroma – for example
pennyroyal, mint or thyme.

SIGHT • Create visual consistency and predictable • Create different vantage points – mounds or
patterns, massing plants with similar tones and slopes to offer an improved view of the garden
colors together • Hang white sheets in direct sunlight to show
• Someone sensitive to the glare of sunlight shadows of plants and trees. Those fascinated by
needs easily accessible shade, for example reflections and shadows will enjoy the changing
patios, porches, arbors, tree canopies, trellises shapes
and gazebos
PROPRIOCEPTIO • Ensure that pathways are clear and consider • Designing a garden with large open spaces will
N ‘soft’ dividers, such as bushes, trees, and encourage those who want to stretch, jump and
slopes move around, which activates their
• If garden activities are timetabled and proprioceptive systems
arranged to take place at the same time each • Climbing hills, stumps and boulders offer
day, the predictability will reduce anxiety opportunities to exercise and use body muscles.

VESTIBULATION • Those anxious about heights will respond • Provide a garden space for running. A perimeter
better to slopes than steps, appreciate sturdy garden path may be a convenient solution
seating and feel more comfortable when a • Consider providing a trampoline and exercise
garden swing is of a height that allows the feet ball. The movement of bouncing up and down
to touch the ground can produce a very calming effect for those who
enjoy it

22

In addition. accompanied by an orientation map. Noise from air conditioning compressors. many of whom are sensitive to textures and bright light • Provide a clear edge along pathways so that visually-impaired persons are aware of the edge of the path surface. Create a sequence where the fixed element is experienced first for a sense of security. wide pathways and surfaces to eliminate the feeling of crowding. that encourage one-on-one interaction. can be disconcerting for persons with ASDs. ensuring safety and security • smooth. ORDERLY AND CONSISTENT SPACE FOR CHILDREN WITH CLEAR ACTIVITY AREAS AND TRANSITION BETWEEN SPACES AND CLEAR CIRCULATION ACTIVITIES 23 . • orientation maps that illustrate a layout of the garden or play space so users know where they are and what to expect next. smooth non-glare paving provides a proper surface for children with mobility issues and is important for children with ASDs. with the least amount of distractions possible. • fixed and non-fixed elements – unpredictable or changeable elements such as furniture locations. • opportunities for increased socialization. • Sequence activities to introduce elements and ideas slowly and build upon skills and comfort levels. Surprises can create anxiety in children with ASDs. or an element that creates a comforting. areas that are changeable to create a challenge that children have the opportunity to overcome. Children with ASDs are uncomfortable with change. and further on. DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS: OUTDOOR SPACES • a location that is tranquil and quiet. predictable pattern. for example. adjacent traffic. such as gardening. • some elements of consistency such as a hedge. and providing space between different activities. both with trees and shade structures • Provide transitions between spaces/activities to allow individuals to orient themselves before experiencing something new. stone wall. • plenty of shade. and high-pitched or humming noise can be overwhelming • 5’-0” minimum height fencing that cannot be easily climbed to prevent children from straying outside the area’s boundaries. can help them anticipate these changes.

such as transition areas. DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS: OUTDOOR SPACES • plenty of visual aids and signage as up to 50% of persons with ASD are nonverbal. • opportunities for exercise and for increasing motor skills. A simple example of this is to sequence a concept. It is important to provide a level of comfort but also to encourage kids to overcome common fears. coordination. body awareness. or a fence panel with viewing holes. a low growing tree to hide beneath. incorporating signage with clear. • Build in challenges to help generalize skills to a real-world environment. Some children with autism use a picture exchange system (PICT) to aid their communication with family members and teachers. consider adding a walk challenge path or exercise loop. Therefore. or to watch activities from a distance until comfortable enough to participate —a bamboo tunnel. and motion in addition to providing a calming connection to nature. or gradually present more directional options for the user PROPERLY ZONED ARES SOOTHING AREAS AND ORIENTATION MAPS 24 . so they gradually become shorter. Gardening activities help to increase fine and gross motor skills. • soothing areas for the user to escape and re-center when overwhelmed. • hammocks or hammock swings for a sense of comfort by being held tightly by something and to be soothed by the swinging motion. • Gardening activities are a great way to get kids familiar with different textures and scents of plants in a controlled manner. and balance. simple pictures to communicate ideas or intended use of certain play and learning elements is an important consideration. in designing outdoor environments. Beyond play structures.