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Some tips to make gardening fun for disabled children

December 2, 2018

For a disabled child, getting closer to nature can do wonders. Experts point out that nature therapy had made a huge difference in lives of children. In fact, nature therapy or popularly known as horticultural therapy for disabled children is fast gaining momentum.

Gardening helps to bring out the positives in a child. Some of the benefits of gardening are it builds endurance and hand dexterity, helps to lessen negative feelings, reduces muscle tension and blood pressure and also gives them a lot of practice in following instructions and safety regulations!

When introducing gardening to a disabled child, the caregiver will have to be more vigilant.

Gardening also helps a disabled child to explore new things on their own. In fact, most of the disabled children love gardening. There might be chances that your child does not enjoy spending time with nature. But make sure to introduce them to know what gardening is all about!

Karthikeyan V is the co-founder of Horticultural Therapy Healing Centre in Bengaluru, an NGO that works towards empowering disabled children through nature.

We teach our children gardening, weeding, watering and so on. They even learn to run their own nursery in the long run. This kind of therapy is good for sensory enhancement, overall development and even emotional stability. Moreover, the person does not feel like that they are working or doing an exercise. Horticultural therapies as a means of promoting wellbeing are not new in India. However, over the years, there is less awareness about this in India, while in the West, it has become popular- Karthikeyan V

Here are some tips to make gardening fun for children with disabilities
  • Add water features- We all know that watering is one of the key elements of gardening. Water has numerous benefits, one of the main being its soothing and cooling effects. Have you tried introducing small water ponds or fountains to your garden? Your child is going to love it! According to experts, children with autism love spending time around water. When they touch and feel it, they feel great! So try introducing some water features to your garden so that your child enjoys spending time at your garden even more.
  • Plan ahead- This is an integral part of good gardening. All good gardens are a result of proper planning and implementation. So when you are introducing it to a child with a disability, ensure that you have planned it correctly. For instance, if you are going to have different plants on one side of your garden, space it according to a plan because each plant needs different environments to grow. Show your child about all this so that they get a better and detailed insight. For a child on a wheelchair, this planning can be of great help!
  • Do not use heavy materials- So whether it is for a child with or without a disability, using sturdy and heavy materials are going to be tough. In fact, it can make gardening tiresome and challenging for them. Make sure that you use only products that are light-weight. Most disabled children are not patient. They can become irritated and angry very fast. Try introducing plants that grow quickly. This will make the child feel positive as well.
  • Let them show off their garden- We all love to show off fruits of our labour. So when your child's plant has blossomed and given fruits, make sure that they show it to their family and friends. It helps to increase their self-esteem and confidence.
At Sankalp Special School in Chennai, nature therapy is followed without a miss.

"Most of the children with disabilities are interested in nature, except for a few. Some of them are even sensitive to mud. We show them a structure on how a plant is grown. We tell them to water the plant, talk to it and so on. It makes a lot of difference. Sometimes we draw those pictures and show how to do it, which most of the children connect to. Once you show them how to do it regularly, they make sure they do not miss. It is important that someone guides them", says Subhashini Rao, Co-founder, Sankalp Special School.

Sreekumari Menon of Sradha Special School in Kochi also focuses on the importance of good guidance while gardening.

"Always make sure that someone guides the child through the entire process. I have noticed that most disabled children like gardening, except for a few. In case they cannot do too much, you can always introduce them to basic watering", says Menon.

ALSO READ: Some tips to boost self-esteem for people with disabilities

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