Sensory gardens can be a boon for anyone in terms of their physical health and wellbeing, but they are particularly good for people who have disabilities. They can offer benefits to those who have spinal injuries, Huntington’s Chorea, Acquired Brain Injuries, and many other conditions. Here are eight of the main benefits that sensory gardens have for those with disabilities.
1. Providing Stimulation
Yes, it’s a sensory garden, and it gives sensory stimulation. This is perhaps one of the biggest benefits. A lot of people with disabilities experience loss of, or decreased use of, certain senses and engagement with sources of stimulation can increase sensation where wanted, and even dull hypersensitivity in areas where it is not wanted.
2. Promotion of Physical Activity
People with disabilities will benefit from movement just as much as those who are fully able-bodied. Walking, gardening, moving from sitting to standing, or just getting out and experiencing some movement can be hugely beneficial. Those with degenerative diseases will benefit from exercising the muscles, and those who have other disabilities will still benefit from cardio-respiratory fitness and potentially mental health as well.
3. Belonging to a Community
When someone regularly works in a sensory garden with other people, they enjoy the social bonds that come with that and get the benefits of becoming a part of a wider community. This is why many schools for the disabled often have sensory gardens. This is good for mental wellbeing.
4. Improved Behaviour and Reduced Aggression
Meaningful task performance of the kind associated with gardening, for example, can help to reduce agitation and regulate the senses. The Sensory Modulation Area is a small area found in a lot of sensory gardens which people are offered access to if they need to let off some steam and be alone for a while. This area is shaded, and has a water-proof bench press, making it a nice option for all year round ‘tension relief’. When people need privacy and some time to be alone with their thoughts, this kind of environment is particularly beneficial.
5. Cognitive and Physical Outlets
Sensory gardens offer activities such as purposeful movement, motor activity challenges, and balance challenges, and offer cognitive and physical stimulation which is important for improving both physical attributes and executive functioning. The environment in the garden is more welcoming than might be found in other similar ‘challenging’ spaces such as an indoor gym.
6. A Space for Stress Relief, Meditation and Reflection
Visitors can enjoy meditation, emotional and spiritual healing, relaxation and stress relief. Emotional healing can be as important as physical and spiritual healing for those who are struggling to cope with the effects of their disability. These spaces can be useful for private reflection or for time with their family. Music, sound, scents, water features, and even the presence of edible plants can be relaxing. Letting go of stress can be important for those who are struggling with their disability.
7. Inspiring Growth
Gardening is a way of building new things which can generate a sense of personal accomplishment, and this is something that is very important for those with disabilities. Growing and caring for plants can help a person to see their potential in other areas of their lives, and generate the opportunity for meaningful occupation in other areas. This is called PERMA positive and it is a major benefit of sensory gardens.
8. Building Mental Clarity and Reducing Fatigue
Sensory gardens can reduce a person’s feeling of fatigue as well as stress, and help to build mental clarity. Fresh air is a major part of this, and the sense of smell can be helpful for increasing neural activity and also for building memory. There are many benefits just to being outside, and sensory gardens amplify them all.