Nature. The Forest, Mountains, and animals who dwell there have always brought many a sense of Peace and deep interconnectivity to a deeper part of themselves. The sights and sounds, be they of a babbling brook or roaring waterfall, the wind as it caresses the trees, the sigh of tall grass, the sounds of the Animals– all of these things for some autistics can be a palpable and positive source of stimulation that is far from silent, yet distant from urban hustle and bustle.
For the Autistic individuals, especially those who have grown up in big cities, reconnecting with nature can be an indispensable asset.
Often in our society we are expected to act a certain way, but to be out in nature gives us a degree of freedom that is hard to find in densely-populated areas. Our natural curiosity can be sated and embraced when looking at certain patterns in nature.
We’re listening to the sounds that are often missed in the context of everyday life in places like the city where noise from traffic and other people can be much more overwhelming.
There is a sense of repetition and structure in nature, that while it does deviate with the seasons, allows us to feel a sense of security. For example, many Autistic individuals have spoken of finding comfort in hiking the same trails at various times in their lives. A trail may change due to weather over the years, but it’s geographical location remains the same in many ways.
Returning to specific locations in nature often bestows a sense of familiarity which helps to mediate the anxiety that comes with change for many of us. There is no particular pace needed, and because the individual sets the pace themselves, it allows for a deeply-spiritual Independence from the day today conformity forced upon us by a world that caters to the neurotypical ways of thinking and analyzing life.
For me as an author, I would come to question why the trails of Schoharie County, the farms of Cobleskill, New York, and the many animals both wild and domestic from deer to horses and cows brought me such peace– but then it dawned on me.
Throughout our lives, many autistic human beings will face some form of abuse or trauma which stems from society’s inability to understand us. The judgments impede on our path to healing from such trauma and can often be quite severe in a world that sees us as the “Other” and treats us in a way that makes us feel almost alien.
Nature however, gives no judgement nor hateful word if we are simply sit on a rock or at the edge of a creek and listen to the gentle sounds of the world. In coming to understand how trauma and aspects of it like anxiety and light- and sound-sensitivity affect us, I find that nature acts as a passive filter which allows us to reset ourselves through a balance through noise mitigation and positive stimulus through exploration.
I ask anyone reading this, whether you are autistic or non-autistic, to think about how you may benefit from the balance that comes with a natural environment, whether you live in nature or simply take the time to visit your local state park, nearby farms, and animal sanctuaries or simply someplace beautiful off the beaten path.
I ask parents of autistic children and young adults to help your children connect with the natural world and understand how it can soothe them through maintaining a connection with one of the most judgement-free places there can be. Let them enjoy spaces where they can heal and release themselves through interacting and engaging in the unassuming and judgement-free expanse of the wilderness.
Let them find harmony in the blank canvas of nature’s sensory equalizer. Let them be Wild.