Horticulture Therapy       

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Horticulture Therapy

BY SHAILA HEGDE, consultant

(Special education, horticulture therapy and counseling).

People have been dependent on plants since the beginning of time. Plants provide food, clothing, shelter and medicine essential for human survival. This relationship between people and plants has been taken a step further by the discipline of horticultural therapy. It is a treatment modality that uses plant and plant products to improve social, cognitive, physical, psychological and general health and wellbeing of participants.

Horticulture Therapy is a relatively new discipline that has been developing rapidly in the past 25 years. The significance of this discipline and the contribution it can make to advancing health and well being has just begun to be understood. Research in the west found that children with disabilities have showed prominent improvements in social skills (eye contact, social distance, voice volume, facial expression) and this is very effective in reducing anxiety and teaching emotion.               

Besides the aesthetic pleasure we derive from plants, it is tremendous, the way plants have supported our mental well being over the years.


Horticulture therapy project at Asha centre for Autism

Horticulture therapy was introduced at centre for autism in 2010. Some of our therapeutic value learnings from this project are as under:

Exposure to garden:  Increases motivation, feeling of security, improves sensory and perceptional abilities, relieves stress and anxiety.

Exposure to watering:   Increases attention span, improves ability to work independently, increases perceptual abilities. Speed and accuracy improves through watering; this betters concentration levels, and coordination.

‘Growing media’ preparation (Mixing sand, coco peat and mud): Increases creativity, improves colour concept, hand function and fine motor coordination.

Tray filling and bag filling for planting: Improves fine dexterity, relieves stress and anxiety, improves fine motor and gross motor, helps maintain posture and improves coordination.

Seed sowing: Improves concentration and attention span, increases figure ground perception.

Transplanting rooted plants: Improves fine motor and gross motor function, improves hand function and concentration, attention and coordination.

It is not required for all skills to be used for therapy; these can be modified as per individual needs.

A person with autism finds great joy in planting things and watching them grow. Self esteem can improve and social skills can be cultivated from the socializing in therapy.


Horticulture activities introduced at the school to achieve therapeutic goals

  • Flower decoration in Urali (yellow and red colour flowers etc)
  • Jelly packing mixed with colours to decorate pots
  • Filling coco peat in pots
  • Using hand trowels (big and small)
  • Plug tray filling
  • Spraying water on baby plants using sprayer
  • Watering the big plants
  • Sand filling
  • Seed sowing in plug tray cells
  • Collecting / picking up dried leaves

Study observation:

  • Great improvement noticed over a period of 6 months in sensory issues, like touching sand, coco peat & water.
  • They are able to understand a work schedule.
  • They are able to follow timer sound with the teacher’s help.
  • There is improvement in observation.
  • The activities are continued at home as follow up.
  • All these activities are done under supervision.

Today horticulture therapy is used in different kinds of environments making a difference to the lives of many differently abled people. The scope of benefit with horticulture therapy is enormous.There are probably more benefits than we know about.

   >> Click here to view - Horticulture Programe

   >> Times of india article on Growing strong with their plants


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