(Guest Post From Cynthia Bard Mayes)
I am so thankful that the heat wave that has been plaguing us has subsided. This past spring, my son and I developed the habit of taking a stroll every night before bedtime. Inspired by reading Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods, I started to wonder if more time outside would positively impact my son.
My son has Asperger’s. Like many “Aspies”, he loves all things electronic and would be perfectly content to spend his evenings playing video games. However, what if we shook things up, turned off all the electronics and started taking mini-hikes after supper? Would it make a difference? I mean, we go to the park and he loves to swim but what if we made it a point to get a little dirtier and spend more time on the grass and amongst the trees?
So, we started getting outside. We started walking. Then, we started taking the last pieces of fruit that were getting a little too soft to eat and throwing them into the woods surrounding us, my son happy to feed the deer, the birds, and the faeries. Then, we started chasing butterflies and picking up caterpillars (and sometimes even naming them, such as Bob… and then Nick).
We were having fun. We were talking. We were laughing.
I believe that the time outdoors has helped my son with his sense of balance. I believe that holding caterpillars and catching butterflies have given my son an opportunity to practice being a little more aware of different levels of touch. I also believe that these “wild nights” help him relax before bed and they improve his quality of sleep.
But more than that, I believe it offers us both the opportunity, every night, to realize that not only is there is a great big world out there but that we both have a place in it. Louv’s book doesn’t address autism specifically but I found that there have been positive changes in my son after I started making a conscious effort to get outdoors with him more. The website for the Children Nature Network is http://www.childrenandnature.
My name is Cynthia Bard Mayes. I have a blog, ham and apple smoothies, (hamandapplesmoothies.wordpress.com) that I write about the life I share with my son, who has Aspergers Syndrome. On the blog, I write mostly about Aspergers and socialization, nature and overall well-being. (Well, and sometimes The Big Bang Theory.) My goal is to write about our lives in a way that is accessible, relatable and most of all, to show that neither of us is “suffering” from autism but instead are very much enjoying the journey. I am also working towards a M.Ed. in Community Health Education. I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org