Gardening as Recreation and Therapy
Growing things connect us with Nature. Over the years, we have expanded our fruit, vegetable and flower gardens and added a small orchard. In the process, we have engaged many campers who seem to enjoy the simple but purposive process of tilling, sewing, weeding, tending and harvesting.
While gardening has been recognized as therapeutic since ancient times, it was, Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and recognized as the "Father of American Psychiatry," was first to document the positive effect working in the garden had on individuals in the 19th Century. Benefits from gardening and formal horticulture therapy are many. The American Horticultural Therapy Association lists 27 distinct benefits. The book Gardening for Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders and Special Educational Needs
lists others. Additional studies are equally encouraging.
We have a well-established garden at Camp Krem, consisting of seven large raised beds growing flowers, herbs, fruit and vegetables. In addition we have a newly established orchard, courtesy of Bob Mason, our wonderful neighbor who has been honored by both Santa Cruz county and the San Andreas Regional Center for his volunteer work.
Our campers plant, weed, water, and tend these gardens and harvest our modest produce with great satisfaction.Herbs, strawberries and vegetables find their way into our kitchen and our meals during our 12 week summer camp. Surplus herbs are dried and packaged for gifts as one of our handicraft activities, a program we intend to expand. Our raised beds are especially beneficial for Campers in wheelchairs.
Thus far, our garden activities are ad hoc. With consulting help from Natasha Etherington, the American Horticultural Therapy Association and hands-on training from one or more of their certified therapists, we propose to extend our existing informal program to provide systematic horticultural therapy to our campers. Our own Program Director, Christina Krem, will be directly involved. She grew up on a New Zealand farm with large and productive gardens and has developed and supervises our existing gardening program at Camp.Therapeutic Animals
Most people like animals and find friendship, fun and solace with them. The positive effect of animals have been noted particularly in the lives of those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, autism, wounded warriors, homeless and the elderly.
Published research suggests that people with autism and I/DD can benefit from exposure to dogs and even that they readily establish close social relationships with dogs and other animals, in preference to people. This was confirmed by an extensive survey in 2011 and earlier in a comprehensive 2007 review of 250 AAT studies. Other sources claim "amazing results for autistic children".
At Camp Krem, we have:
- three dogs (one missing a front leg; campers seem uniformly sympathetic to this handicap),
- three cats,
- a large number of chickens and
- a very handsome New Zealand Kunekune pig.
These animals feature strongly in the camp-lives of many of our campers who enjoy feeding, petting and handling them, as evidenced by the photos and video
We have discussed our program with Professor Aubrey Fine of Cal Poly Pomona, a specialist in animal assisted interventions and who literally "wrote the book" on this subject (see footnotes). With his guidance, we hope to expand the program steadily.
Christina Krem, our Program Director, was raised on New Zealand farms and has a lifetime of experience with large and small animals. She is also a qualified Veterinary Nurse and experienced dog handler and trainer who supervises the day to day operation of this program.Music at Summer Camp
Music and formal music therapy are fundamental parts of our program. There is significant evidence supporting the value of music in promoting social, emotional and motivational development in children with autism. Benefits include:
- Music is an effective task motivator for many students, decreasing non-compliant behavior during initial instruction and providing a means for increased attention and duration of on-task participation.
- Music functions as a mnemonic aid, assisting students in foundational learning and retention of academic facts, social & communication scripts, and task sequences.
- Similar to the use of visual supports, music cuing provides a means to structure auditory stimuli and speech output for students with cognitive or language delays.
- Music provides concurrent auditory and kinesthetic learning opportunities for students with multiple disabilities, severe orthopedic impairments, or students with visual impairments.
- Music is a successful inclusion tool, engaging special learners and typical peers together in an environment that is meaningful to all participants.
For people living with developmental disabilities, Autism Spectrum Disorder or other related disorder, music therapy can help with:
- Increases focus, or sustained attention;
- Decreases pain perception;
- Opportunity for expression of feelings or decision making;
- Increase of communication and speech needs;
- Focuses on social skills such as eye contact, appropriate touching, personal space, overall group cohesion and interpersonal relationships;
- Opportunity to isolate and exercise upper and/or lower extremities, based on need;
- Promotes overall wellness; and
- Provides sense of empowerment and encouragement you may not find elsewhere.
There is also strong evidence that individuals with I/DD and autism can better learn or enhance individual skills such as counting, learning colors, taking turns, learning the feelings of others when these are first presented through music, song or other rhythmic cuing, and that long term music therapy has been effective in achieving established objectives in virtually all cases. "Music influences human behavior by affecting the brain and subsequently other bodily structures in ways that are observable, identifiable, measurable, and predictable, thereby providing the necessary foundation for therapeutic applications."
Music interventions can be designed to promote wellness, manage stress, alleviate pain, improve communication, enhance memory, help deal with stress, and progress physical rehabilitation. It can include anything from listening to music to playing an instrument. This can include anything from listening to music, singing, playing an instrument to dancing and has been specifically established to help children with disabilities. "Music and music therapy has undeniable results when dealing with children who have disabilities. Children who have social issues, and have trouble making friends have also been known to benefit from music and formal music therapy."