This is a little bit of a different post for us – but I hope you will read on to see how a simple “Like” on Facebook, (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Old-World-Garden-Farms/320724164624407), and of this post can help us to help hundreds of children and their families enjoy a sensory garden free of charge for Autistic and Special Needs Children. And please – if you can – help spread the word!
It’s that time of year again….Back to School Time. Now this year, for me, it is a little different. You see, I have been lucky enough to have most of the summer off of ‘work’ for the first time ever. Although, that is quickly coming to an end. Let me explain….I am an Occupational Therapist (no, this is not a profession that helps people get jobs). I work with children with special needs in a school environment. My specialty lies within helping children diagnosed with Autism, Down’s Syndrome, and various disorders especially in the area of Sensory Processing/Integration Disorders.
Just a quick explanation of what this means. Most of us have some ‘quirks’ about us….some people can’t stand to have tags in their clothing, some people can’t listen to other people eating crunchy food next to them, and some people just can’t get any work done unless their desk is neat and clean. We all have something about us that make us ‘strange’ in a small way to others. However, when you have a Sensory Processing Disorder, like in children with Autism, these ‘quirky’ things are multiplied by hundreds, if not thousands. For instance, these children may not be able to tolerate one single speck of dirt on their hands….otherwise they will yell, scream, and run until it is cleaned off. The smell of a person’s perfume coming from the front of a bus may be too much to handle even if they are sitting in the very back seat, and may put them in a ‘rage’ – appearing as if they are a ‘behavior’ problem child to the bus driver. There are many more examples….way to many to list here.
THIS IS WHERE YOUR HELP IS NEEDED!!!!!!!!
All summer, as Jim and I have worked on “The Farm”, I constantly think about the children that I have seen in the past 19 years as I have been their Occupational Therapist. As I pick weeds, mow the grass, stain the pergola, etc… I think about what they are doing now, how the family is coping every day with the struggles that they must go through, and in what way could we make their lives better. Then I feel how lucky we are to be able to enjoy all the elements of “The Farm”. Getting our hands in the soil, rocks, rain, chicken feed; smelling the beautiful petunia’s, basil, mint, and everything the garden produces, and hearing the sounds around the farm – the chickens proudly clucking after they lay their egg for the day, the wind blowing through the tall ornamental grasses, and even the barn doors closing on the rails are sights, sounds, and touches that not everyone gets to experience, especially some children with special needs.
I knew there had to be some way to integrate my farm ‘job’ in the summer with my love for the children that I work with throughout the school year. The answer…A SENSORY GARDEN!!!!
Sensory gardens are places designed to help those with special needs to relax and enjoy themselves by stimulating their senses in a comfortable and safe way. They are very bright children, but their different way of learning can get in the way in the typical environment sometimes. They just have to be able to be in the right environment for them to learn. This is a learning experience that will incorporate what is taught in the classroom and be applied outside in a natural environment. A Sensory garden is designed to be accessible and engaging to people with special needs by appealing to all of their senses – especially the smell, sight, touch, and sound.
Let me explain briefly what I envision. In order to stimulate the visual, tactile, olfactory, auditory and other systems, a variety of surfaces will be included–brick, pea gravel, sand, bark chips, slate, stones, grass, soil etc. as well as plants with a variety of leaf textures, colors, shapes, sizes and, various fragrances.There will be a quiet area of the therapeutic garden include a sand table and water table for sensory play. Other objects such as pinwheels, wind chimes, flags and wind socks may also be used to engage the senses. There will also be opportunities for the child to develop gross motor skills and exercise large muscle groups by adding objects for climbing and jumping.
What does this have to do with you, you ask? Well it is simple. In order for approval for a grant to get this project underway, we need to show governing agencies that there is widespread community support and interest in our idea. We simply ask to let your friends, neighbors, teachers, coworkers, and even the mailman if you can, to like our Facebook page and this blog post. We want to show on our application proof that people care and that these children matter – and that we need to do something to allow them the opportunity to enjoy exactly what we enjoy – experiencing life in and around the outdoors. We hope that show of support, along with our finished Sensory Garden plans, will be enough to show a need to approve the grant. We hope that by next spring – we can bring you an update on the progress of the garden -and maybe by late next year – pictures of the sensory garden in use!
Thank you for taking the time to read and feel free to spread the word on your facebook, twitter, and/or blog page.
Thank you! Mary