Education and Human Sciences, College of (CEHS)


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A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Science, Major: Child, Youth & Family Studies, Under the Supervision of Professor Julia Torquati. Lincoln, Nebraska: July 2011

Copyright 2011 Mollie von Kampen


The benefits of spending time outdoors are becoming more apparent for children and adults, as more research is showing that nature can help improve academic performance, reduce stress, and provide physical benefits. Specific groups such as children with attention deficit disorder have shown gains in attention by being outdoors in natural settings, but little research has examined potential benefits of nature for children with other disabilities such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). With one in every 110 children being diagnosed with ASD, effective practice with children with ASD is needed. However, no study to date has directly compared behavior of children with ASD in natural settings to behavior in a built environment. This study aims to address this gap in research by comparing social behaviors, attention/engagement, and selfregulation of a child with ASD while engaging in identical activities indoors and outdoors. The focal child participated in four structured play activities indoors and outdoors, for a total of eight research sessions. The activities included: (1) play dough; (2) water; (3) sand; and (4) play dough. The dependent variables examined were social behaviors, attention behaviors and self-regulation. Results indicated that when examining these variables outside and inside, one setting was not favored over the other. Future research should focus on including children with varying levels of ASD and sensory integration issues to see if nature could hold a calming effect for these children. In addition, future practice should focus on incorporating time outdoors into already established interventions to see if this may provide added benefits and functionality to the intervention.

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