The NatureBrain approach to neurodiversity in Occupational Therapy is a form of nature therapy, also referred to as ecotherapy and involves three key phases:
1) Establishing Roots.
2) Branching Out.
3) Sustaining Outcomes.
Phase 3: Sustaining Outcomes
We sustain positive outcomes by offering information, education and support within the child's circle of belonging, including their families, care providers and schools. This helps to maintain continuity and supports ongoing social-emotional development.
Phase 2: Branching Out
Playful and sensory rich nature-based interventions expand awareness and inspire exploration and creativity. Interventions harness nature's elements and are activity based as well as uniquely tailored to each child based on their interests and growing strengths. These activities are designed to build skills within the area of social emotional learning and development including self awareness, social awareness, self management (e.g. emotional regulation)
decision making, and relationship skills.
Phase 1: Establishing Roots
We emphasize strengths and 'growth edges' rather than deficits and limitations and obtain a baseline indication of each child's social emotional skills, sensory experience, play behaviours and quality of interactions through a mix of standardized assessment and observation. Based on this information we work together to set therapy goals.
Our intention is to better understand each child’s unique experience of the world including how they relate and interact with people and other living things (wildlife, plants, animals) and to
cultivate a sense of security
and belonging through nature connection and
the therapeutic relationship
The therapy process begins by Establishing Roots with children and youth outdoors, in nature and with animals. This involves developing each child’s sense of personal safety and belonging in a welcoming but continuously changing natural environment. Nature provides a landscape that allows for shared experiences regardless of differences and nurtures a sense of belonging.
The innate connection our species has to the natural environment can be shared in a somatic experience that helps to restore emotional connection to place, creating a feeling of a safe and reassuring environment in which to learn and grow. It also allows for the nourishment of sensory development and embodiment at the pace of the individual. As the tones and sounds are often more muted in nature, sensory experiences can be more comfortable and even more familiar intuitively.
We draw upon nature's elements and interactions with wildlife and other animals to support the process of co-regulation and self regulation as a basis for personal growth. Opening/closing routines and rituals help to establish roots and a secure base from which to explore the natural world by offering some predictability and containment. These strategies are trauma informed and enable the child to stay within their window of tolerance for new experiences and optimize their potential for learning, healing and development.