"Children cannot bounce off of the walls if we take the walls away."
-Erin Kenny of Cedar Song School
Kids need a lot less walls in their lives. Being outside provides a child a feeling of freedom and the ability to move with less restrictions. A natural playground allows kids the ability to create, build, explore, learn, play, and move in ways they are not able to when indoors.
Outside, these kiddos are not told to "be careful", "don't make a mess", "no running", "quiet voices", or "no touching". Without so many rules to follow, there are a lot less rules to break. The pressure to follow so many rules is lifted and kids can focus on their bodies, emotions, and social interactions.
Outside is also where kids can interact with the nature around them. Animals have been scientifically proven to relieve anxiety so you can imagine how beneficial animals are to kids with Autism. Animals also provide kids with feedback through nonverbal communication. When a chicken is afraid, it flaps it's wings and runs away. When a cat likes how you are petting them, it will curl up in your lap and purr. Kids tend to want the animals to stay close and will control their behavior and body language to encourage the animal to stay close, whether it's to look at the animal, pet the animal, or even hold it. Practicing empathy and compassion comes more easily when able to eliminate the fear of judgement. An animal just wants to be fed and loved, it doesn't care what you wear, say, or if you have a tic, and it doesn't make you have an uncomfortable conversation. With anxiety lifted, I am able to experience that child at his or her best and is how I am given an open door into their world without having to knock.