The outdoors can be full of overwhelming stimuli and for people with autism, sensory overload may become very uncomfortable. The good news is, I found a happy success story at Sweetwater Spectrum Community located in Sonoma, California. This innovated community is a 3-acre property built specifically for adults with autism. It has four large homes, each with 4 personal suites and a shared common space.
The outside areas are connected by pathways, social nodes, activity spaces and soothing gardens. They even have a community center, farm, greenhouse, and therapy pool on campus. The main goal of Sweetwater is to support a happy, social and meaningful life for adults with autism, their family, friends and community. Sweetwater is creating a “lessons-learned” document to help other communities develop similar living settings for adults with autism. This is fantastic! I’m encouraged to know that awareness is building and I’m excited to be part of this movement.
If you are interested in creating a specialized garden for autism, below are a few basic guidelines to keep in mind.
A garden rich in these design strategies are considered a good beginning point, however are not the perfect solution for all. It is important to always collaborate with your client’s caregivers and their professional teams.
“Creating Landscapes for People with Autism” author: Susan Combs Bauer, landscape architect and president of BauerCombs & Associates, Inc. “Connecting People to Nature by Design”. www.bauercombs.com
Susan Combs Bauer, Landscape Architect www.bauercombs.com