How to Tailor Your Backyard to Fit the Needs of a Child with Autism
If your child has autism, you know how difficult it is to find a place where he can engage in enjoyable and safe activities. Thankfully, there are changes you can make at home to turn your yard into the perfect play area. Follow these tips for tailoring your backyard to be safe, accessible, and functional for children on the autism spectrum.
Make it a family thing
Autism affects each child differently, so it’s difficult to share ideas on what activities work well for your child’s playing and learning needs. One thing’s for sure, though: an awesome backyard is great for any child. So, look for ways to make your backyard entertaining and safe, and get everyone in the family involved. Ask your child what kinds of things he would like to do in the yard—whether it’s a treasure hunt, birdwatching, or baking cookies in your own solar oven.
Prepare for wandering
About half of autistic children will wander off at times, so installing a fence in your backyard is a must. A fence may not stop an older child from venturing off through the woods or neighborhood, but it can at least make their play area more secure and establish boundaries. It’s also essential for your child to be prepared in case they do wander off. Make sure they have a form of ID on them at all times. Also, educate them on what plants are poisonous so that they can identify harmful plants in your backyard or surrounding areas.
Try sensory play
Autistic children can become overwhelmed by sensory stimulation, but by engaging the senses, sensory play helps children on the spectrum develop essential skills and learn about the world around them through experimenting with various textures and objects. Water activities, like garden soup or car wash, are great for sensory play. To make garden soup, you just need some water pitchers, large bowls and pots, scoops and tongs, garden gloves, scissors, and a few other household items. Have your child go through your backyard and/or garden to select ingredients (flowers and plants) to the bowl of water to make a soup. For the car wash, purchase a large plastic car for your child to draw on with washable crayons. Then, give him a sponge, water, and bucket to wash the car clean. Adding a sandbox opens up your backyard to several other sensory play activities.
Create a retreat area
Another way to make your backyard functional and safe for your child on the autism spectrum is to designate a retreat area. Having access to a safe place, such as a tent or a treehouse, will help your child recover in times of overstimulation. Adding a swing set to the yard is another way to help your child calm down if outdoor stimuli gets to be too much.
Children with autism can still enjoy the benefits of playing outside safely. Remember to get the whole family involved, prepare for your child to wander, try the various sensory play activities, and create an area for your child to retreat to when he’s overstimulated. Though it may take some extra effort, you can make your backyard into the perfect play area.
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