Why Should We Use Horticultural Therapy for Individuals with Autism?

I just discovered horticulture therapy while researching farm therapy on the web. According to the Canadian Horticultural Therapy Association, horticultural therapy is a “formal practice that uses plants, horticultural activities, and the garden landscape to promote well-being for its participants.” 

Individuals with autism that partake in gardening reap a variety of benefits.  Clare Johnson, from the blog, My Chicago Botanic Garden , states in a blog entrytitled, “Gardening and Autism”, that there are three main benefits these individuals receive while working in a garden, “The first benefit has to do with the physical garden space itself....Gardens can serve as a welcome break from the classroom or facility environment.”

Johnson continues, “The second benefit was the participant’s ability to follow directions with multiple steps.”  Planting a garden is a multiple step process.  This practice over time will sharpen their vocational skills in completing multi-step instructions, which is critical skill when in acquiring a job. 

Other pros of gardening in relationship to sensory integration are discussed by Johnson, “The last benefit dealt with sensory integration with a focus on the tactile system.  When engaging participants in garden activities, dysfunctional in tactile system prompted actions such as withdrawing when being touched or helped, and overall avoidance of getting one’s hands dirty.”  Overtime the individuals become accustomed to handling the soil, water, plants, and other gardening materials. 

These benefits, along with the increase of independence, social, and vocational skills, demonstrate that horticultural therapy will benefit adults with autism and other developmental challenges.  For more information: Click Here.


--Pam Quinn

Patrick Cox

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