4 reasons why you should take your sensory seeking autistic child on a nature walk
A walk in nature can be just what your autistic child needs. Not only will it give you a way to engage but it will also give your child the sensory input they crave.
A sensory seeker like my son requires a certain amount of input each day. There are tons of ideas I have come across for inside activities but my son much prefers the outdoors. So we have made it a point to go out every day the weather permits. Here are a few things your child can experience in the great outdoors.
1) Touch/Feel opportunity
If your son's anything like mine he LOVES to feel different textures especially items that are grainy gooshy or rough. Avoid exposing your child too to many new things at once as this may overwhelm them. A great way to engage your child is to get down to his level and hold or guide him to touch whatever item you are trying to draw his attention too and repeat the name of it a few times. You may feel silly but it not only helps grab their attention it also provides a gateway for speech development. Running his fingers through sand, mashing his hands in the mud, digging through leaves and picking up sticks are just some of the ways your child will be able to experience different textures.
2) Auditory opportunity
Depending on where you live and where you're walking there can be all sorts of sounds your child will be exposed too. The great thing about a nature walk is their exposure to these sounds doesn't come with the added social tension that you deal with in other outings. Make sure to point these noises out as you walk. Even if your child isn't looking at you or in the direction of the noise it does not mean he isn't soaking it all in in his own way. I remember walking down the trail one day and we heard a dog barking in the distance. I sarted talking to him about how the noise was a dog barking and he didn't seem to acknowledge me at all. However the very next day he started barking and saying a dog a dog. Animal noises, leaves rustling in the wind, waves on the beach and banging sticks against trees are just some of the ways your child will be exposed to different sounds on his walk.
3) Visual opportunity
There are so many things that your child can see that sometimes this can get overwhelming as well. Something we like to play to narrow his attention is the "Show me" game. We'll ask our son if he can show us a big tree or a pine cone etc most of the time he doesn't respond and goes about his business and in that case we'll awnser for him either by touching it and showing it too him or by guiding his hand too it. This is also another opportunity for language development if you narrate the things that you are seeing on your walk. Light shining through the trees and various colors in the path from flowers and leaves are just some of the things that will appeal to your child visually.
4) Smelling opportunity
Some children crave strong scents even not so pleasant ones. We are lucky enough to live on the Chesapeake Bay where you are exposed to the "lovely" scent of the water and you can see my son scrunching his nose every time the wind carries the scent across his path. We like to bring things to his attention like pine needles and flowers that have a scent a little more plea,sant and seems to bring a smile instead of a whince.
In conclusion if your looking for an activity to do with your child I suggest finding the closest park or path. Nature is a great way to engage in your little ones world and enjoy yourself while your at it!