This special post has been contributed by Jenny Wise

When I was a kid, my mom used to send me outside for hours at a time. I built forts and collected nature’s treasures and got more mosquito bites, scrapes, and bruises than I could count. I am happy to say that, though I do keep a closer eye on them than my own mom did, three of my four kids enjoy many of those same freedoms. But what about the “other” one?

Well, she is on the autism spectrum. While my daughter is smart, funny, and capable, her anxiety and lack of social awareness make it difficult to just “go play.” For years, she stayed inside when her sibling went outdoors unless her father or I could go with her. Then we did something that changed all of our lives: we fenced in the yard and got a dog. Within a few weeks, our daughter wanted to be outside with her new best friend every minute of the day. We saw her confidence increase, her mood improve, and her social skills improve.

Even as a parent of a child with special needs who runs a blog on the subject, I never saw any research or ran across any resources about this part of parenting a child with special needs — how small changes to your environment can help your child become more independent.

Now that I’ve found these tips and tricks, I want to scream them from the rooftops! Here are some of the articles I’ve found particularly useful:

How Dogs Can Help People with ADD & ADHD

Benefits of Pet Ownership for Children with Special Needs

How to Create a Backyard Sanctuary for Kids with Disabilities

Outdoor Environments for Children with Autism and Special Needs

Contributed by: Jenny Wise, jennywise@specialhomeeducator.com