A Breath of Fresh Air
Being in nature gives all people a range of health benefits. Being outdoors can be especially rewarding for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Read about some of the benefits that can be considered when planning out weekly activities.
Research has demonstrated that for those with ASD (autism spectrum disorder), engaging with the outdoors can provide motor skill, emotional and social development benefits. Additionally, spending time in nature can provide a range of sensory benefits for people with autism and other disabilities.
Many individuals with IDD have sensory processing difficulties, meaning that they may struggle to process and respond appropriately to sensory input. Nature provides a range of sensory experiences, from the feel of the sun on your skin to the sound of leaves rustling in the wind. These experiences can help individuals learn to process sensory input in a more comfortable and manageable way. Being outdoors can offer a fun, rejuvenating and decompressing experience.
One of the most significant benefits of nature for people with IDD is the opportunity to take a break from screens. In today’s digital age (especially during long Minnesota winters), screens are everywhere, and many people spend a significant portion of their day in front of them. Screens can be overwhelming and can contribute to sensory overload.
By spending time in nature, individuals with autism can disconnect from screens and give their brains a much-needed break. Research indicates that people on the spectrum are also more likely to fall into patterns of problematic internet usage than their neurotypical peers, and caregivers are likely to notice this as well. Self-directed play or exploration in a natural setting in their own way can help develop creativity, problem solving and self-regulation skills.
Nature is for Everyone
As winter ends and spring begins, more opportunities will arise for comfortable, safe exploration of the natural world. Whether a loved one is looking to make more friends while experiencing nature, or if a caregiver needs respite, now is a great time to check out some of the many wonderful special needs summer camps available in Minnesota. Waiting lists tend to fill quickly, so applying early is encouraged. Minnesota has some amazing state parks that are fun to explore. However, something as simple as sitting in the grass or tending to a garden has similar benefits.
More Information and Support
There is an abundance of nature near the Laura Baker campus. Anyone who visits our Family Navigation team for a free consultation can learn more about how we help individuals and families dealing with an intellectual or developmental disability reach their goals and add family time in some beautiful surroundings.
Keep an eye on the Laura Baker blog – we’ll be adding a list of enriching activities your family can enjoy together.
Family Navigation Specialist
Main: 507-645-8866 Ext. 124