Throughout March, and into April, we have recognised and shared awareness – together, hopefully, with some acceptance = of the conditions of Hydrocephalus, Epilepsy and Autism.
Each one, we have first hand experience of and what it takes to support somebody with a complex mix of these and other disabilities.
Through supporting our son, we have learned resilience. In particular how to become a resilient gardener..
Gardening is being prescribed as a medical treatment now. I can understand why, but care needs to be taken in ensuring a person receiving this therapy is being appropriately supported and guided.
Personally, I do not believe it enough just to thrust your hands into the soil and feel all ill’s are cured. It does create a sense of calm. It does help you feel at one with the world and the sense of focus as you work in the garden is incredible. That focus helps ease the mind from all random and distracting thoughts that may be causing unrest.
How then can a person who has difficulty in understanding emotions and sensations, know that when their hands are deep in soil or compost they feel calm.? It is not that automatic. This person, just like our son needs to be encouraged to do this, and then talked through the sensations they feel.
What makes you happy? Our son cannot answer this. Instead, he feels threatened by the person who asks the question. He has no understanding of the meaning, or the feeling associated with the word ‘happy’. The fact that he cannot process this, raises anxiety and genuine fear. Instead. I show him by taking the lead and pushing my own hands deep into the compost first. He watches intently. I tell him it feels cool and pull them out again. He sees the residual dry compost on my hands and I encourage him to do like I had. After some hesitation, and a period where I place a handful of compost into his upturned hand to get used to the feel, he plunges his hand into the sack of compost.
I ask him “does it feel cool?” “Can you feel the softness?” all questions designed to encourage our son to think about the sensations. As he is considering the feeling, his anxiety eases. As his anxiety eases, he becomes calmer and happier.
It doesn’t last, but for the moment, it has made a difference. Building on this type of assisted activity over the years, we have been able to encourage our son to step over the threshold and join me in doing some gardening.
The resilience to gardening comes from the time I can spend in the garden before needing to return and support our son through another seizure or extreme anxiety attack.
No matter how much I would like to spend a morning or an afternoon in the garden, the reality is, I will spend only 30 minutes or so. To develop a technique of 5 minutes every day does work, but the results are slow. Pave it over, I have been told – usually by those who do not understand – but the benefit to our son and to my wife and I in seeing colour, and movement in the breeze from the grasses and trees, the scent from many plants, the skimmia, the roses and others, the sight of falling blossom, bees and butterflies and the many birds. Even the sounds and tastes from home grown fruit and veggies have their place in helping our son as I use each of them in relations to situations he faces in a world that is so difficult for him.
The April rains continue to fall, the icy winds blow down from the north, but the garden delivers, slowly, but surely, as we move through the year.
If you are reading this, stay safe, keep well, and enjoy your day 🙂