Autism and Nature
Autism is a developmental disorder that affects communication and social interaction to varying degrees. It is complex and affects everyone slightly differently. For many teens, autism can be a particularly stressful challenge. They may feel like they don’t fit in with their peers, or they may not know how to communicate and interact with others. This can lead to a lot of frustration and isolation. However, there is hope! Recent studies have shown that spending time outdoors in nature can help improve the lives of teens with autism. In this blog post, we will explore the benefits of nature for teens with autism, and we will provide some helpful tips on how you can get your child outside and enjoying the great outdoors!
Mental Health Benefits of Nature
One benefit is that it can help reduce stress and anxiety both directly and indirectly. Directly, research has shown that spending time in nature can help lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. This is important because high levels of cortisol have been linked to a variety of health problems, including cardiovascular disease and many co-morbidities that impact mental disorders. Indirectly, teens benefit heavily when they are spending time away from screens and many of the stressors of modern life. Giving them the chance to slow down, increase their oxygen intake, and become more active is a great way to improve not only their physical health but their mental health as well.
In addition to reducing stress and anxiety, nature can also help improve focus and concentration. Some of the issues for those with autism is the constant need to switch back and forth between highly detail-oriented technology and maintaining greater situational awareness of our surroundings. For teens with autism, this can be a challenge. However, studies have shown that spending time in nature can help increase attention span and reduce symptoms of ADHD. While the outdoors has a lot that can be focused on, being able to easily step back and see the forest for the trees literally and metaphorically. This provides the opportunity to readjust both attention and focus to allow for greater concentration.
It Can Be As Simple As Getting Outdoors!
Outdoor activities help children with autism learn new skills and improve their overall well-being. One of the deficits we create when glued to screens is that we don’t adjust to the world around us. Adjusting what we focus on, seeing objects with depth perception, and exposing our eyes to varying light and shadow all give us a visual workout to improve the health of our vision. This impacts our hand-eye coordination, ability to perceive distance, and so much more. The more we exercise different parts of our brain and body, the better our overall health will be in the long run.
If you are interested in getting your child outdoors to enjoy the benefits of nature, there are a few things you can do to get started. First, consider taking your child on a hike or walk in a local park. This is a great way to get some fresh air and exercise while enjoying the beauty of nature. Seeing how they interact with the natural world can give you some insight into whether they need a more structured program. You can look for autism-specific programs at local parks or campgrounds that provide opportunities for your child to interact with other children with autism in a safe and supportive environment. If this feels overwhelming, don’t worry, Seven Stars is here to help! Seven Stars is a residential treatment program with extensive experience working with neurodivergent teens. Our immersive program allows teens to continue education while staying on-site and participating in plenty of wilderness-focused activities. Seven Stars is much more than a summer program; our average length of stay is 5-8 months which allows for much more in-depth work with your teen. Please contact us with any questions!