Sensory Integration Therapeutic Nature Immersion

The Cedarsong Way® is

Sensory Integration Therapeutic Nature Immersion

The Cedarsong Way® foundational principles of all outdoor time, unstructured flow learning, hands on experiential learning and authentic play transforms it into a Sensory Integration Therapeutic Nature Immersion Program. We use the healing properties of unstructured flow time in nature to provide a wellness curriculum designed to deepen relationship with self, nature and family. As a compassion-scaffolded program, all of Cedarsong Nature School’s classes and camps are designed to foster emotional intelligence, mindfulness, empathy and awareness. Additionally, the unstructured free time in nature resonates well with children diagnosed with autism, ADHD and/or sensory processing disorders and it complements the physical, occupational and speech therapy that is commonly prescribed for these children.

Traditional Sensory Integration Therapy is a form of indoor occupational therapy specifically designed to stimulate and challenge all of the senses. During a session, the therapist works closely with the child to encourage movement. The aim of traditional Sensory Integration Therapy is to improve the ability of the brain to process sensory information so that the child will function better in his or her daily activities.

All of the Cedarsong® programs combine the principles of Sensory Integration Therapy with Nature Immersion by replacing the indoor space with a natural outdoor setting. As we know that children learn best when they are having fun and moving their bodies, everything is taught in the spirit of play. The general premise that regular outdoor time benefits all childrens’ socio-emotional, physical, and mental well-being is becoming widely accepted. Several promising studies have found that a dose of nature works as well or better than a dose of medication on ADHD-diagosed children’s ability to concentrate. We see many instances of success in our outdoor environment through children’s authentic interaction with nature, and with each other, as they are guided to deal with their unique challenges.

As a program of inclusion, Cedarsong Nature School accepts up to two children diagnosed with high functioning Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder and/or ADHD  into all of our regular classes and camps. All Cedarsong Nature School programs are non-competitive and designed to foster group bonding, self-empowerment and positive social integration.

 

TESTIMONIAL

We started Cedarsong September of 2017; my son had just turned 2 a few weeks prior. He was still non-verbal, and often lashed out in new environments by hitting, clutching his ears, hiding his face, or running away. Around this time I had also received a referral from my pediatrician to an Occupational Therapist and Speech Therapist- he had been recommending I see one since my son was 10 months old. I was concerned and felt immense pressure from family, friends, and other moms, and often felt like a failure for not being able to help my son with his speech. To my surprise, however, my son did not lash out in maladaptive ways at Cedarsong, not the first day or any day following. He seemed to be doing so well- meaning he was happy, engaging with others, and often wanted to stay longer when I arrived to pick him up- that I decided to increase his attendance to 2 days a week, and then 3 days a week.

The last six months I have seen my son grow and develop in astonishing ways at Cedarsong. I believe, because Cedarsong has a heightened focus on social-emotional learning, my son was provided the space he needed develop a sense of resiliency and independence. This ultimately allowed him to feel secure and calm, and eventually ready to engage with other children and teachers in a more positive way.  Because Cedarsong uses a multi-age model, my son was able to mirror older children in play, which supported his language skills tremendously. 

Within six months, my son went from saying a handful of words to being able to communicate in a comprehensible way. I am so grateful for the Cedarsong model and supportive staff. Teacher Erin and Teacher Karen have had multiple conversations with me regarding my son’s speech and language, discussing the benefits of forest immersion for a child like my son. A few months into Cedarsong I decided to hold off on PT and OT and now feel confident the forest therapy is exactly what my son needed.  

 

The forest allows for unlimited sensory play. Whether the children spend time jumping in puddles, picking huckleberries, observing mushrooms, or making forest tea; the forest, and the forest educators, encourage the children to use all of their senses to navigate and respect the forest. Prior to Cedarsong, my son would refuse to get dirt, mud, sand, or any speck of anything outdoors on his body. Specks of dirt would consume him, and he wasn’t able to get over it. Since starting Cedarsong, my son has been able to get his body dirty, “Dirt, play, mud!” he often exclaims during pick up time, as he is drenched in mud from head to toe. Thank goodness for layering!

All of the forest play has definitely increased my son’s self-awareness and self-responsibility.  Subsequently, I have noticed a near 100% drop in my son’s reactionary hitting, biting, and other stress induced behaviors outside of Cedarsong. Moreover, I believe it has increased his compassion and empathy for the natural world and those who inhabit it.  I have never asked him to say thank you, please, or sorry, but lately he apologizes when he bumps into people, says thank you when I serve him dinner, and says please when he wants something. He witnesses compassion from other children and the forest teachers, and has begun to mimic the unconditional kindness and respect he receives. 

Since starting Cedarsong, my son has been engaging in play more deeply and slowly. He seems to have more purpose when playing, being project and goal oriented. I have noticed his concentration and attention increasing, and have seen a growth in his fine motor skills and gross motor skills. It is not uncommon for him to ask us to stop so he can smell the flowers- literally- both outside while exploring and in the produce market of the grocery store. He enjoys pointing out the colors of flowers while he gently holds them, or slowly touches a petal, being careful never to harm it.

As my family has been witness to the extraordinary growth of our son, Cedarsong has inadvertently reminded us to slow down and really trust him more. I have the utmost certainty that Cedarsong, being in essence non-academic, is rich in learning opportunities and sets the foundation for self-exploration and a curiosity about life and learning in general. Prior, I was often worried about my son’s development, and attempted to encourage him to participate or socialize with other children. I spent time comparing him with other children his age rather than focusing on his strengths. Although he was enrolled as a student of Cedarsong Nature School, I myself have also been “schooled” simply by observing and witnessing his growth and the kindness and sincerity of the forest teachers. The Cedarsong model seems more than an educational pedagogy, but pedagogy that can submerse itself into the daily lives of children and families alike.  – parent of a Cedarsong Forest Kindergarten participant