Horticultural Therapy for Autistic Man
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Lea Tran
Posted on: November 06, 2007

I just started working as a horticultural therapist for an autistic man. One of our planned projects is to grow herbs from seeds indoors during the winter. We have access to indoor grow lights. Which herbs do you recommend we try? For instance, growing baby’s breath indoors and then drying them to use in arrangements.

We have always believed that herbs can play a special role in horticultural therapy. Their aromas and flavours as well as their many uses in medicine and food make them uniquely accessible to people who are suffering from sensory, cognitive and physical impairment. Herbs provide multi-sensory stimuli that can have far-reaching effects on patients. For example, for the blind, herbs and their wonderful array of scents and flavours are always well received. For elderly patients, perhaps those suffering from early stage dementia or depression, herbs can be triggers of cherished memories of their childhood when herbs were more widely used in everyday life. There is also the important element of nurturing plants that can have a powerful effect on patients. Having to plant seeds and care for the seedlings and then witnessing the transformation of the tiny plants into mature plants is itself a powerful therapy.

It is hard to beat the experience of growing herbs outdoors. Not only do herbs flourish better outdoors in the sun, the experiences of digging in the dirt or feeling the warm sun on one’s back are very grounding.

There are many herbs that can be tried. They mostly need lots of light, but because you have supplementary light available you have more choice than if you tried to do this in a windowsill. I think the main herbs to focus on are those that grow quickly and easily from seeds, and will give off a nice scent from an early stage.

Here are some resources on growing herbs indoors:

http://www.richters.com/show.cgi?page=MagazineRack/Articles/PopHerbs.html

http://www.richters.com/show.cgi?page=MagazineRack/Articles/GrowingHerbsIndoors.html

http://www.richters.com/show.cgi?page=MagazineRack/Articles/indoors.html

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