Parents, have you heard about a growing (pun intended) trend in speech therapy? It's called outdoor and nature-based therapy, and it's quickly gaining popularity as a way to improve children’s focus and communication skills. Today I’m going to explore what the research says about this exciting new therapy approach, and provide you with some resources to learn more about it.
Let's talk about the benefits of nature-based therapy. According to a national study, spending time in nature can help improve attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms in children (Kuo & Taylor, 2004).
Additionally, gardening has been found to promote neuroendocrine and affective restoration from stress (Van den Berg & Custers, 2011), which can help your child feel more relaxed and focused during their therapy sessions. For children with communication disorders, who may struggle with anxiety or other emotional issues, outdoor and nature-based therapy sessions can provide a calming environment that can help them feel more comfortable and engaged in therapy.
But the benefits don't stop there! Outdoor and nature-based therapy can also help close the achievement gap for children with communication disorders (Lieberman & Hoody, 1998). And for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), nature-based therapy interventions have been shown to increase communication skills (O'Connell, 2014).
Studies have found that children who participate in nature-based therapy sessions show significant improvements in their communication skills compared to those who receive traditional therapy. By using the natural environment to stimulate conversation and encourage language development, speech therapists can help children improve their vocabulary, sentence structure, and overall communication skills.
And of course, let’s not forget to mention that outdoor therapy is just plain FUN! Outdoor and nature-based therapy sessions provide a fun and engaging environment for children to learn and develop their communication skills. By using nature-based games and activities, speech therapists can make therapy sessions more enjoyable and interactive, which can help children stay motivated and engaged in the therapy process.
If you're interested in exploring outdoor sessions for your child, talk to your speech therapist about incorporating these types of activities into their therapy sessions. With the many benefits that nature-based therapy sessions can provide, it's a great way to help your child improve their communication skills in a fun and engaging environment. For those of you in Berks or Montgomery counties, PA - schedule a free consultation phone call with me to get started with outdoor speech therapy today!
I’ve included references to the research as well as some helpful parent resources to explore at the end of this post! 🌳
References and Research
Kuo, F.E., & Taylor, A.F. (2004). A potential natural treatment for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: Evidence from a national study. American Journal of Public Health, 94(9), 1580-1586. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.94.9.1580
Van den Berg, M., & Custers, M.H.G. (2011). Gardening promotes neuroendocrine and affective restoration from stress. Journal of Health Psychology, 16(1), 3-11. https://doi.org/10.1177/1359105310365577
Lieberman, G.A., & Hoody, L.L. (1998). Closing the achievement gap: Using the environment as an integrating context for learning. State Education and Environmental Roundtable. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED422637.pdf
O'Connell, B. (2014). The effectiveness of nature-based therapy interventions in increasing the communication skills of children with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 44(4), 984-994. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-013-1950-8
Here are some resources that you may want to explore to learn more about outdoor and nature-based therapy sessions:
Kristine Lundgren wrote an interesting study on nature-based therapy as a complementary approach to treating communication disorders. You can read the paper here. Lundgren, K., & McMakin, A. H. (2018). Noticing nature: Individual and social benefits of a two-week intervention. Journal of Positive Psychology, 13(2), 153-164.
Instagram accounts such as @magicspeechbus 😉 @theoutsideslp @braverootsnc and @bearfoot_ot (for occupational therapy) regularly post about outdoor and nature-based therapy sessions, and may provide inspiration for activities to try with your child.
"Nature-Based Therapy: A Practitioner's Guide to Working Outdoors with Children, Youth, and Families" by Nevin J. Harper provides a practical guide for therapists interested in incorporating nature-based therapy into their practice.
"The Garden Classroom: Hands-On Activities in Math, Science, Literacy, and Art" by Cathy James provides a variety of nature-based activities that can be used to promote learning and development in children.
These resources should provide a good starting point for those interested in learning more about outdoor and nature-based therapy sessions. As always, it's important to consult with your child's speech therapist or healthcare provider before making any changes to their therapy regimen!