Our Natural Environment!
When I think of the word natural, I think of Nature and the Countryside. That is because this is our family’s ‘natural environment’, and this is where Jay truly belongs!
We are extremely fortunate to live where we live. Trees and open countryside surround us, and thus, that is the world in which Jay has been raised and therefore it is natural for him to thrive in it. Before I knew Jay was on the Spectrum, and long before I knew of his Global Delay, he had an attachment to all things natural from the very beginning. As a baby, he would sit in his pram looking up at the world around him, smiling and cooing and making the average noise a baby does. Yet, there was a delight and pleasure in his expressions, that I now associate with his Autism, and what I now see each time he is let loose on this environment. I realise that even as a toddler, his fascination and wonder at his world was obvious. He noticed things. Small details other people may well miss! The way a spider’s web looks on a rainy day. Frost engrained on a leaf. Intricate detail on a Butterfly’s wing. Differences in the sky pattern in clouds, and the feel of the dirt on his finger tips! Looking closely at the way a caterpillar moved, and creating that movement himself. Drawing expressions on pictures of Natural things such as the Sun and Clouds. Painting a Desert scene after feeling too hot in summer! All these things told me how closely Jay was learning from, and using his Environment to further his interests and to calm his being and to make sense of the world!
It started with the sun. His pleasure at seeing it went beyond that which is normal, and his obsession with it became more and more obvious as time went on and Jay grew. From year to year, I discovered just how much it means to him. When he began to communicate through feelings and emotions, he linked those to the sun and rain. Yet even though he feels sad when it rains, he also loves to be near by and in water.
The natural elements of our world exist alongside us, and for those fortunate enough to look for them and engulf themselves in the wonder of them, those people are blessed and that is what I realised Jay was doing! He was immersing himself in his environment, feeling it, exploring it, watching it with all 7 senses, whilst feeling the wonder and joy of the natural world to which he so obviously feels an intense connection to.
Autism comes with many mental health issues! Anxiety, Obsessional Compulsive Disorder, Meltdowns, lack of regulation, Phobias, inability to stay calm or calm oneself and panic on social situations, people, and all the demands that we the neurotypicals take for granted.
Many experts believe that the natural world can aid healing, calm minds and at times, treat all of the above! I personally agree, as I have turned to nature many times when I have felt stressed or anxious, and I always have shared this with all 3 of my children. But with Jay, it is different, as he is not aware of the benefits! He merely feels them! He cannot identify with the healing ability or know that he is out in the countryside for healing. I just have to look at his face when he is out, to know that it is beneficial to his mental health.
This is a photo taken of Jay at three and a half and he was sitting amongst Harebells in the moorland near our home. Before this walk, Jay had been in Meltdown all morning. Just look at his happy face and the calm way he is laughing with pleasure at being in the natural place he loves! The next photo shows Jay calmly watering our plants. Again, I had given this activity to him to calm him down.
Many people are aware of this power in nature that we have to calm and heal our minds. Jay is not aware and so it is more meaningful and more than enough proof that we need it , to realise that it is very real and very important! So many children, even neurotypicals are missing out on this side of human nature. We need nature! We need to be one with Mother Earth! We need to feel the sun and the light, and the rain and the earth beneath our feet, to stay sane and comfortable in this world. Simply watching the Stars and the Moon, can alleviate pressure and Anxiety and can quieten our souls and minds. Jay uses his natural environment to self-regulate and to calm, without appearing to do so. He does not realise or understand that this is what he needs, he simply engages with the world around him, in a simple and very beautiful way. This can be learned behaviour in children who do not have Autism. Indeed my own older two loved nature because I do. However Jay has not the ability cognitively to work this out. He acts in a spiritual way and appears to be completely in tune with the easy and predictable rhythm of the Natural world! Jay is aware of the surroundings and the places he goes, without seeking them out or deliberately saying he would like to go there because it makes him feel calm. He has no understanding of that! All he knows, is he is part of the nature around him, and he belongs there because he accepts it’s benefits with ease and without vanity or expectance. The healing that Nature gives to him is free but Jay does not have to ask for it, or does not take from it, he simply lets it fill him up and then, he has achieved the physiological benefit and becomes calm again.
I can derive from this, that Jay needs access to the Natural World, and I can give that to him where we live. Anybody can find a piece of Nature, even if you live in a city. Go to the parks, look at Butterflies on a garden shrub, or look to the sky for Birds. Look at trees in parks and look at what nature is there, and most of all, try and see the Sun and the Moon, and if possible the Stars. The predictability of these things, and the natural rhythm and sequencing of them, all help calm angry, hurt and anxious minds if only the opportunity is there. Just like Jay, these children will not need to be aware of the benefits, they will simply engage in the elements and feel refreshed at least for a while afterwards.
Being with Jay in the outside world can be thwart with difficulty some days. His Phobias are there and things like Bees and Flies and hard Weather can have the opposite effect on him, but this is a different subject because Phobias change the score. This is because, if they happen outdoors, then the benefit the child feels will be temporarily lost. If Jay has a scare whilst out, then we have to go back to the drawing board by going home from where it happened, and begin calming at home. It is just the way it is. If the Anxiety starts at home, then the Natural world will heal Jay, however if any Anxiety leading to Phobia happens out doors then the feelings will engulf. Once calm Jay can then return to a natural place, and the elements will then have the same effect and calm him again. It is a constant round of Meltdown to calm to Meltdown to calm etc until the day is done .
Speaking about Jay’s Phobias and how we help him through them will be the main subject of my next Blog post, and for now I leave you with some more Natural photos of Jay at his very calmest and at one with Mother Nature.
Next Time : Autism and Phobias