Digging Into the Garden for Treatment I’d had been on the staff for four years at a Chicago-area hospital as part of an acute rehabilitation program when our hospital’s foundation put me in contact with Greencorps Chicago, a local program fostering community gardens and green spaces. The hospital was granted a three-year certification by the ... First Person on the Last Page
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First Person on the Last Page  |   July 01, 2009
Digging Into the Garden for Treatment
Author Notes
  • Carey Payne, MCD, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist at Elmhurst Memorial Healthcare in Elmhurst, Ill. His clinical and research activities focus on improving outcomes for adults with neurological impairments. Contact him at cp453@yahoo.com.
    Carey Payne, MCD, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist at Elmhurst Memorial Healthcare in Elmhurst, Ill. His clinical and research activities focus on improving outcomes for adults with neurological impairments. Contact him at cp453@yahoo.com.×
Article Information
Special Populations / Autism Spectrum / Older Adults & Aging / Healthcare Settings / First Person on the Last Page
First Person on the Last Page   |   July 01, 2009
Digging Into the Garden for Treatment
The ASHA Leader, July 2009, Vol. 14, 35. doi:10.1044/leader.FPLP.14092009.35
The ASHA Leader, July 2009, Vol. 14, 35. doi:10.1044/leader.FPLP.14092009.35

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I’d had been on the staff for four years at a Chicago-area hospital as part of an acute rehabilitation program when our hospital’s foundation put me in contact with Greencorps Chicago, a local program fostering community gardens and green spaces. The hospital was granted a three-year certification by the program, making the institution eligible for horticultural assistance and free materials. I glanced through the picture window separating our physical therapy gym from the garden space, and the sunlight shone brightly.
Several years later, rehabilitation team members resigned or were laid off after our hospital became a potential site for the 2016 Olympic Village, and our garden went dormant before its time. Even without a formal garden, my colleagues and I worked together to bring organic techniques and alternative physical access to gardening for treatment.
I saw a young man after a stroke—whose behavior left him almost “unreachable” by the treatment team—start some cilantro seeds in a tabletop raised bed. A group of elderly women shared their memories of past home gardens when they were given sheets of newspaper to make seed-starter “rot pots.” A 10-year-old child, who seldom spoke, began talking excitedly when he pulled up the year’s first radish, unearthing a fat, healthy worm. A teenager with autism spectrum disorder who planted the first cabbage and onions of the season regularly asked to go outside and see “my plants.” I will remember that garden as a place where the light always shone.
Gardening technology allows the clinician to grow vegetables, herbs, and ornamentals in the smallest of spaces as part of treatment for the persons we serve. Adaptive tools and hardscape (such as self-watering containers, garden walls) are commercially available to bring people of all physical and cognitive skill levels into the garden. Milestones during the growing season like a “fried green tomato party” can become annual celebration events. Doing little things to help plants thrive can yield dividends for mood, affect, and general health. Trends toward heirloom seed propagation promise the clinician a huge variety of plants for beauty, for food, and for sharing—and for communicating.
Can you dig it?
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FROM THIS ISSUE
July 2009
Volume 14, Issue 9