Inclusion is Happening!

Hoping to break ground later this year!

Yesterday Andrew and I had the good fortune of taking a private tour of the future Autism Nature Trail and Letchworth State Park. There are many, many, many reasons I’m giddy about this trail, and a day later I’m still buzzing about it. 

Andrew has always had a love of nature. When he was little he loved the Jamestown Audubon Society. As he got older, we put him in sports, which isn’t bad, but we didn’t encourage and develop his love of nature. I’m ashamed of that, though I know we had our reasons. I’m so glad we course corrected. He doesn’t always love to leave for a hike, but once we are there, he can spend minutes staring at an insect or a bird, and often sees things before anyone else. The best trails are wider, well maintained, and aren’t too difficult to manage. A trail with sensory issues in mind is amazing, and the features along the trail are right up his alley. 

The path as it appears now, July 2020.

Hikers can become ambassadors of the trail, which allows people with autism to feel more connected with it. Ambassadors don’t have to necessarily do anything-but Andrew feels a bit more connected to this trail. The trail is set to break down later this year, and we’ll definitely go back and take sneak peeks. Goodness knows Letchworth State Park has enough trails that you can go again and again and never see the same thing twice. That said, kids on the spectrum like repetition, so we’re likely to do the same trail over and over again. Which is fine with me! 

The one and only Dr. Temple Grandin acted as an advisor on the features and different aspects of the trail. That alone blew my mind-she’s amazing. But it also was great to hear how the creators are incorporating her feedback to make the trail perfect for people of various disabilities.

Probably what excites me the most, however, is that the Autism Nature Trail is proof that the world is changing. That inclusion is happening. Special education teachers, excellent educators, and parents of children have always known that what works well for people on the spectrum or various disabilities are good for all people. It’s not just people on the spectrum that will enjoy the trail. Yes, the design works great for those that are sensory challenged, anxious, have physical impairments, or have other various needs, but it’s also for anyone who loves nature, interacting with nature, or being outside. 

I definitely encourage taking a look by clicking on the links in this post. If you haven’t tried hiking in a while, give it a shot! It’s easy to social distance on a trail, and it certainly does a body good!

We loved the flowers and butterflies at the park!
Julia Garstecki

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