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Autistic Child Benefits from Outdoor Experience at Fern Forest Camp

It was the third day of Fern Forest camp, and the campers gathered excitedly at the top of the hill, waiting to begin a fern hunt, to be led by planters from the Parks and Gardens Division of the Ministry of Industry Commerce Agriculture and Fisheries . Earlier, the young campers learned about the hundreds of varieties of ferns in the Fern Gully rainforest and their value to the environment during a session with Nordia Hamilton, Botanist and Education Officer from the Division. Now they were gearing up to find as many species possible in order to cop the top prize for the fern hunt.

Young Tevontae was no different. With each step down the hill and into the fern forest, the transformation began from the shy boy who stayed mostly by himself, clutching his lunch kit while eyeing other campers suspiciously. He now threw all care to the wind as he and his newfound friend darted from one clump of ferns to the next in their quest to collect as many varieties of ferns as possible. ‘Look what I found !’ he said gleefully to one of the camp counsellors, as he showed her his first fern treasure. The counsellor smiled happily in return as she congratulated him. This was the first clearly uttered words she was hearing from young Tevontae since the camp started.

Tevontae is autistic. Children like him on the autistic spectrum may display behaviors such as rigidly sticking to routines, performing actions repetitively, having difficulty establishing and maintaining relationships and difficulty speaking normally, among others . However studies have shown that autistic children benefit tremendously from the sensory experiences provided by being outdoors.

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