How Spending Time Outdoors Benefits People with Autism
In recent years, the benefits of spending time outdoors to improve mental health and general wellbeing have been well documented. Taking a walk through woodlands or participating in activities like gardening or bushcraft can offer many a calming yet energising experience.
In particular, experiences and activities revolving around the natural world pose a whole host of benefits for people with autism of all ages.
Here at Calvert Exmoor, we are dedicated to ensuring a variety of outdoor adventure activities are made accessible to all. Our range of inclusive holidays, including those catered to individuals on the autism spectrum, are designed to support everyone.
Nature & Stress Relief
Getting outdoors can be a great mood booster, often helping individuals of all abilities experience reduced feelings of stress and anxiety.
For many, nature has a soothing quality; research has shown that just viewing images of nature can reduce negative feelings and promote positive ones.
Individuals with autism may experience becoming overwhelmed by numerous stressors that neurotypical people won’t be affected by in the same way. Spending time in the natural world has the potential to reduce these feelings and can support individuals gain the tools they need to react more constructively to moments of anxiety, fear or stress.
Improving General Wellbeing With Nature & Outdoor Activities
According to the mental health organisation Mind, taking the time to experience nature and appreciate green spaces can do far more than improve your mood and reduce feelings of stress. It can also:
- Support physical health
- Encourage you to become more active
- Encourage you to develop new skills
- Improve confidence and self-esteem
- Provide opportunities to meet new people
- Provide opportunities to engage with the local community
- Reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness
These factors contribute to improved physical, emotional and social wellbeing, helping you lead a happier life!
This can all be true for people with autism too, of course – outdoor activities can be adapted to suit individuals’ needs, ensuring that everyone can reap nature’s benefits and remain comfortable.
Research Connecting Autism & Nature
While extensive studies in this area are still limited, there has been some insight into the benefits spending time outdoors can provide for people with autism, along with plenty of anecdotal evidence about the calming and educational properties of engaging with nature.
A small 2018 study (Chang, Yuan-Yu & Chang, Chun-Yen) found some key benefits of outdoor activities for children with autism, highlighting seven primary benefits, including supporting:
- Physical activity
- Decreasing sensitivity
Outdoor Sensory Experiences
The natural world offers a plethora of sensory experiences with different sounds, smells, colours and textures to take in. Children especially can benefit from being introduced to a range of sensory experiences while in an environment where they can feel safe.
Spending time outdoors encompasses countless activities, so if an individual has sensory preferences or sensitivities, this can be taken into account. Some people may enjoy the sounds and sights in a woodland, while others may prefer the tactile nature of an activity like gardening.
Because the natural world can be unpredictable and versatile, some may worry about experiencing sensory overload. However, outdoor activities may still be enjoyed by people with autism people worried about sensory overload by providing a sense of control and expectation of the stimulus.
Making New Goals
Spending time outdoors can help promote self-confidence and independence, especially when connected to a specific activity like learning about woodland plants or animals.
Access to green spaces can help boost focus and attention, supporting individuals as they establish and achieve new goals. Outdoor adventure activities are completely new experiences for many; trying things like climbing or zip-wiring can help them face their fears and show they can achieve all kinds of goals.
Developing New Skills
Taking the opportunity to learn about bushcraft or foraging as well as more exhilarating activities like cycling and sailing is a great way for anyone to develop a range of new skills.
No matter what outdoor activity you take up, there are so many ways to build on existing skills, develop new interests and garner a sense of achievement.
The kind of skills developed is not limited to the practicalities of the activity, as many also find they grow more confident when it comes to developing communication skills. Outdoor team-building activities can provide a sense of structure to social interactions, supporting individuals to form new connections with others.
Autism-Friendly Adventure Holidays at Calvert Exmoor
Our accessible activity centre offers a wide variety of experiences suitable for numerous disabilities and requirements – this includes providing fantastic autism-friendly holidays and activities!
Guests will stay at our autism-friendly accommodation and have access to specialist facilities throughout their break. All of our guests are also supported by a dedicated instructor for the duration of their stay to ensure everyone feels safe and able to enjoy their adventure to the fullest.
Outdoor Activities for People with Autism
We believe that everyone should be able to take part in exciting outdoor activities, so we ensure everything we offer can be adapted to each individual. Some particular activities that have been enjoyed by our guests with autism include:
- Crate state
Our extensive range of other inclusive activities is also accessible to individuals with autism.
If you would like to find out more about our accessible holidays, please get in touch with the wonderful Calvert Exmoor team.