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Could Outdoor Adventure be a Treatment for Autism?

Could Outdoor Adventure be a Treatment for Autism?

Study Finds Outdoor Adventure is Promising Treatment for Autism

Recent research finds outdoor challenge-based interventions could be effective in reducing the severity of symptoms presented by Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is an increasingly diagnosed neurodevelopment disorder with as many as one in 68 US children diagnosed every year.

outdoor adventure helps autism
Playing outdoors was part of growing up in our time. Has it changed today? Pic: kidsadventureoutdoors.org.au

What is Autism?

Autism is a lifelong developmental condition that affects, among other things, the way an individual relates to his or her environment and their interaction with other people.

The word ‘spectrum‘ describes the range of difficulties that people on the autism spectrum may experience and the degree to which they may be affected.

Some people may be able to live relatively normal lives, while others may have an accompanying learning challenges and require continued specialist support.

It’s not just the kids who can have all the fun. Get out there with them yourself! Pic:kidsadventureoutdoors.org.au

Main Areas of Difficulty

The main areas of difficulty are in social communication, social interaction and restricted or repetitive behaviours and interests.

People on the autism spectrum may also have:

  • Unusual sensory interests such as sniffing objects or staring intently at moving objects
  • Sensory sensitivities including avoiding everyday sounds and textures such as hair dryers, vacuum cleaners and sand
  • Intellectual impairment or learning difficulties

An estimated one in 100 people has autism; that’s almost 230,000 Australians. Autism affects almost four times as many boys than girls.

A Novel Treatment

Research has previously shown that early diagnosis and treatment of ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) can work to lessen the impacts on both the suffers and their families, however a new study from Tel Aviv University has investigated a novel type of treatment: Outdoor play and adventure.

outdoor adventure helps autism
Adventure provides challenge and stimulation. Pic: kidsadventureoutdoors.org.au

The Study

The study examined 51 children from seven special-education kindergartens, all aged three to seven, with 30 of these selected to participate in an Outdoor Adventure Program (OAP).

Cognitive and adaptive skills were assessed by the children’s kindergarten instructors before and after the program was undertaken, with significant improvements found for the group exposed to outdoor adventure.

outdoor adventure helps autism
Individual and group problem-solving. Pic: kidsadventureoutdoors.org.au

“Outdoor adventure programs are designed to improve interpersonal skills and interpersonal relationships by using adventurous activities to provide individual and group problem-solving and challenge tasks,” said lead author Professor Ditza Antebi-Zachor.

outdoor adventure helps autism
Activities that challenge and evoke stress but are nevertheless enjoyable. Pic: backyardandbeyond.org

“Our study shows that outdoor adventure activities benefit children with autism and improve their social communication skills.” Professor Ditza Antebi-Zachor.

outdoor adventure helps autism
Adventure activities helps to build trust. Pic: kidsadventureoutdoors.org.au

“The necessary tools for a successful OAP include establishing individual and group goals, building trust among participants, and providing activities that challenge and evoke stress but are nevertheless enjoyable. Professor Ditza Antebi-Zachor.

outdoor adventure helps autism
Outdoor adventure programs are designed to improve interpersonal skills and interpersonal relationships. Pic: kidsadventureoutdoors.org.au

“We suggest including these fun activities in special education kindergartens and in communication classrooms at school in addition to traditional treatments.

Parents of children with ASD can also enrol their kids in after school activities based on the principles of our research.” Professor Ditza Antebi-Zachor.

outdoor adventure helps autism
Certain types of stress, in small doses can be good. Pic: kidsadventureoutdoors.org.au

The study was published in Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology.

 

Want Some Adventure?

There are quite a few organisations that offer group activities for children, but here are a few we have found to get you started.

Kids Adventure Outdoors

Tree Tops

The Outdoor Adventure Company

 

Original story featured in Wild Magazine.

Jason Lorch
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