Three Rivers Park District Offers Nature Activities for People with Autism
Despite the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Three Rivers Park District continues to connect nature and individuals with autism.
For years, Three Rivers Park District has served a large part of the west metro. But thanks to a partnership with nonprofit Autism Society of Minnesota (AuSM), neurodiverse or individuals on the autism spectrum can also enjoy the parks.
“AuSM will call different parks in the district like Silverwood here and they have different sessions that they have in different places,” explained Cristina Palmisano with Three Rives Park District.
Together, AuSM and Three Rivers staff lead various activities to a group of 12 participants or less. Programs for people on the autism spectrum can be found at Silverwood, Lowry and Elm Creek parks.
“It also allows different possibilities of how people can experience the same program or same event,” explained Seth Eberle, an educator for Silverwood Park in St. Anthony.
Eberle said this the park is offering eight programs this summer. Programs will include painting with beeswax and resin, creating mosaics, fire building and charcoal drawing.
Participants will be socially distanced and all materials will be sanitized in between uses. Eberle said participants will get their own materials so they do not have to share.
As part of the program, Eberle helps individuals experience the outdoors and then use that experience to create artwork.
Park staff members add that AuSM goes beyond nature. It helps individuals develops skills for navigating emotions, information and life.
“COVID was a big disruption especially for folks with autism,” said Palmisano. “To have some kind of consistency. We were able to provide that, it’s been great it help out in that way.”