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, (, 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!


Textures of plants and structures can be used in a garden setting to help the exploration of various senses

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.


Sweet Basil provides fresh aromas to stimulate the senses

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!!!!

Foghorn can serve a second purpose on the farm…to enhance the senses of children learning about touch, sounds and sight.

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.

You can hit the following link to go to our Facebook page to help or feel free to forward on this link : .

Thank you!  Mary

Shared on Transformation Thursdays,  Savvy Southern Style Wow Us Wednesdays, and All Star Block Party

34 thoughts on “A Simple Click Can Help Us Build a Sensory Garden for Autistic and Special Needs Children

  • August 23, 2015 at 6:40 pm

    Mary – this is great! I have one nephew that was diagnosed with Ausbergers (?SP) a year before he completed high school. it is still hard to ‘reach him’ and have a meaningful conversation. Since that time of the diagnosis, my brother has found out there are many children and young adults in a community (of 140,000). What part of the country are you from?
    I am writing from the Red River Valley between MN and ND.

    • August 25, 2015 at 12:23 pm

      Hi Nancy – Yes, Austism/Aspergers is very common – in fact I believe 1 in 65 children are now diagnosed. We live in Central Ohio however I was born in MN. Thanks for following along! Mary

  • March 27, 2015 at 10:37 pm

    I’m in tears hearing this. What a wonderful idea.

  • March 17, 2014 at 9:49 am

    I love this idea but what would be some good things to plant in your backyard for a sensory garden?

  • August 12, 2013 at 1:45 pm

    Spreading the word to my Irish friends on Facebook. All the best with the project. I am a semi-retired Special Ed Teacher appreciating your motivation for such a project.

  • July 30, 2013 at 10:21 am

    I just found your blog and am thrilled by it! I have a son who has down syndrome and autism, and I love to garden. We have two mini horses, two goats and a boatlaod of chickens– I am now going to research sensory gardens too!

  • July 7, 2013 at 10:07 pm

    Have you gotten your grant yet? Sounds like a wonderful project.

    • July 9, 2013 at 10:26 pm

      Thank you Susan for the comment on the project! We actually decided about half way through the process to just fund it ourselves – too much red tape and we didn’t want to wait- we are hoping to have it complete by the end of this year! Jim and Mary

      • July 9, 2013 at 11:13 pm

        I truly wish there were more folks like you. I am a spec. ed. teacher in Calif. and have seen many autistic students through my classroom. Your idea is wonderful and will benefit these children who have so much to offer if they can be “tapped” into 🙂

  • June 19, 2013 at 4:17 pm

    Excellent! I have recently started a camp for children with Autism and we have several different activities that we do through out the week. Swimming and gardening — as we have full access to a small community garden in our area.

    I would like to use our time at the garden better. Do you have any ideas?

  • June 5, 2013 at 10:00 am

    Wonderful! My husband is also an OT, I am going to share your idea. We started our first garden this year and it has been a fantastic experience for all of us including one of daughters who has sensory issues. I will definitely consider the sensory experience as we expand and enhance our garden. Thank you for sharing this, as well as all of your gardening tips.

  • August 18, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    This sounds wonderful! I work as a nurse at a residential facility for people with special needs. Many of my clients are on the autism spectrum. I have thought a lot about building a garden on our campus and have tried gardening at home for the first time this year to get some ideas. I hadn’t considered focusing on the sensory stimuli that could be made available in a garden. What a fabulous idea, I’m looking forward to hearing how this works out for you. I will spread the word on my facebook!

  • August 15, 2012 at 9:40 pm

    This is great! I used to teach PPCD (Preschool program for Children with Disabilities). I had several students on the spectrum and having something like this would have been incredible for them (and for me). I wish you all the best!

    • August 15, 2012 at 9:48 pm

      Thanks Kelly!!! I have 23 preschoolers that I work with and am excited to take this idea into the classroom as well. Thanks for your support

  • August 15, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    Linking you to my blog and spreading the word on FB. I’m an adoption caseworker and also mom to 3 kids with SPD. Our garden has been great for our kids and we incorporated chickens this year, which the kids love. Our OT just laughed at me a few weeks ago when I told her, “This is how we do OT at our house” and showed her pictures of the kids shoveling mulch & compost and holding chickens. Multi-sensory learning! Keep the ideas coming!

    • August 15, 2012 at 9:47 pm

      SPD is such an under-recognized disorder….I love that you use your garden and outdoor area as a therapy area == can’t get much better than that!!!! Keep up the great work!

  • August 14, 2012 at 10:46 pm

    As a Mom of 2 w/ autism I think this is such a wonderful idea! My youngest just finished up 2 years of OT and the change in him is so remarkable. I definitely don’t think there is enough attention on your profession. I’ll be following you on FB. Good luck!


    • August 15, 2012 at 9:45 pm

      Thank you so much Angela!!!! Any support is greatly appreciated!

  • August 12, 2012 at 1:27 pm

    Great idea! My ASD son would benefit greatly!!! 🙂

    • August 12, 2012 at 4:16 pm

      Thanks Amie — your son (like many of the other children I see) are the reason we are building this. Thanks so much for the support and sharing the word with your friends.

    • August 12, 2012 at 4:15 pm

      Thank you for sharing!!!! Happy Sunday to you too!!!

  • August 12, 2012 at 9:53 am

    AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW melting my heart …………….
    i just found you thru rumpydog ……
    best best best to you ……….
    following u on twitter and here ……….
    am not on fb
    anything i can do ….please let me know

    • August 12, 2012 at 4:15 pm

      Thanks Cat — it is a project special in our heart as well. Thanks for stopping by and sharing the information to others!

      • August 12, 2012 at 6:25 pm

        i have found you on twitter and i was an activist for about 4 years – so ……. delighted to help ———–
        just let me know ok ……..xo
        It’s a topic that is close to my heart as well xo
        very special cause …..
        Please let me know if i can write an essay or anything 🙂

  • August 12, 2012 at 9:15 am

    What a wonderful idea! I will gladly spread the word!

    • August 12, 2012 at 4:14 pm

      Thanks Rumpydog! We have gotten a few of your followers to “Like” this project! We really appreciate the way you spread the word! We will keep you updated on the progress of the project.

  • August 12, 2012 at 9:01 am

    we have a simular project here in Belgium, although it’s not only sensory but also educational for our residents at my work (which is a home for mentally disabled people)It’ s a (very) small wood we made a sensory nature path through with a butterfly place etc.Good luck with the garden and we’ll help spread the link ofcourse! kind regards,Kristien

    • August 12, 2012 at 4:13 pm

      Kristien — So glad to hear that you use something similar at work –we could all benefit from a sensory outlet! Thanks for sharing!!!

  • August 12, 2012 at 8:33 am

    I just recently found your blog through a blog hop. I have really been enjoyed the pictures of the barn and the canning cabinet to hold the jars.
    This idea you have is wonderful. I have 2 boys one with autism and one with sensory processing disorder. My boys LOVE to be on my grandmothers farm. It is such a wonderful experience for them. A lot of what we had at therapy was setting up situations that mimic what they would encounter out in the world. What better experience then to set it up in the world of nature. I will be sharing this for sure

    • August 12, 2012 at 4:11 pm

      Thank you Lisa….your family experience is exactly why we are pursuing this project! Best of Luck to you and the boys!

  • August 12, 2012 at 8:28 am

    Brilliant! You’ve given me a great idea! I had planned to start a therapeutic farm for kids on the spectrum (one of them mine), after we make our move, but this would be a great way to start! I can’t wait to see how it progesses. From one family living with autism, I wholeheartedly thank you! Continued blessings…

    • August 12, 2012 at 4:10 pm

      Thank you Daisy! Best of luck with your project as well – I definitely think it is well worth the effort!

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