Garden Therapy

Gardening is more than just good for the soil -- it's good for the soul.

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What preschooler doesn’t love to play in the dirt and look at bugs?

At Lindbergh Schweitzer Elementary School in San Diego, Calif., Mother Nature meets human nature for a little garden therapy. Host Paul James joins special education teacher Patti Read on a tour to see this therapy in action. Read works with students of all disabilities and all but one have seizure disorders. In the special education classroom, these children sense they’re different. But in the garden, they get the chance to feel just like everyone else.

Laura was born with spinal muscular atrophy, a degenerative disease of the muscles. "Gardening makes me feel like I don’t have a disability. It makes me feel like a normal kid instead of like the kid with the disease," says Laura.
Laura’s arms and fine motor skills get a pretty good workout as she digs in the garden. "Working in the garden really helps me feel better about myself because I know I’m doing this and my disease doesn’t hold me back," she says.

In the garden at Lindbergh Schweitzer the students are able to participate in the growing and nurturing experience while also improving their skills in science, math, reading, writing, spelling, nutrition, physical education and art. Planting a seed, watching the seed grow, then tending it and watering it gives the students a great deal of self esteem, according to special education teachers. No matter what the student’s disability, each is able to benefit in some special way from the experience of seeing, smelling, touching, and tasting living, growing plants.

The garden classroom’s walkways are large enough to accommodate wheelchairs and walkers, and the garden beds are smaller so the students can maneuver around and reach their hands into every aspect of the garden. In the garden the students are able to do many things independently, which allows them to feel good about themselves and increases their self esteem. The physically challenged kids at Lindbergh Schweitzer are paired with main-streamed kids to help them with the hands-on jobs. So in the process of developing lifelong skills, they’re also developing lifelong friends.

Plant a seed and watch it grow: it’s the ultimate act of hope. And it’s not surprising that at this school the word disabled is not welcome.

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