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The Great Outdoors is Especially "Great" for Kids With Disabilities

PHOTO: Even in winter, Michiganders are encouraged to enjoy the great outdoors with children with disabilities, as experts say there are benefits for the entire family. Photo credit: jkr/morguefile.com.
PHOTO: Even in winter, Michiganders are encouraged to enjoy the great outdoors with children with disabilities, as experts say there are benefits for the entire family. Photo credit: jkr/morguefile.com.
January 19, 2015

LANSING, Mich. – In Michigan and across the nation, the get outside message for children is being extended to children with disabilities.

A professional outdoor educator is asking families to think about the power of nature, even as they're busy dealing with the schedules of a child with a disability.

Kathy Ambrosini says there are social gains to be made when children spend time outside of a building, especially for children with autism spectrum disorders.

"Forming relationships with humans – very, very important,” she stresses. “And sometimes the early stepping stones to those are the natural inclination of a child toward other forms of life."

Ambrosini adds that if outdoor time is a new addition to the schedule, the child should bring along a favorite item and it's best not to have an agenda.

She advises letting the child lead the way. And for older children connected to tech devices, she says it's OK to bring them along and use them to take photos, use the device camera as binoculars, or look up information about a bug.

Don't let the cold weather in Michigan stop the adventures. Ambrosini says there is value in every season, and the biggest benefits are often for secondary issues, such as anxiety and depression.

"Stepping outside for maybe even three minutes,” she points out “It's short, it's sweet, but the air smells different. The breeze feels different. It's another kind of relief."

As a bonus, Ambrosini finds that parents and caregivers experience stress relief, too.



Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI