Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have difficulty with communication,
social interaction and repetitive behaviors or thoughts (Heflin & Alaimo, 2007). These
deficiencies can lead to feelings of stress, anxiety, isolation and depression which in turn can
lead to a lower quality of life (QoL). Since the late 1990’s cases of ASD have skyrocketed. It is
now estimated that 1 in 68 children have been identified as having ASD (Christensen et al.,
2016). There is little agreement on the cause of autism. Most of the research on how to
ameliorate these symptoms, is directed to better understand how the individual can achieve a
higher QoL. As one approach to QoL, nature-based recreation has been shown to ease similar
symptoms in other audiences (Duvall & Kaplan, 2014). While traditional behavioral
intervention strategies are well represented in literature, there are pragmatic theories that are
gaining traction (Prelock & McCauley, 2012). Yet, there is currently little research on the effects
of nature-based group recreation for children with ASD. The purpose of this study was to
determine the effects of nature-based group recreation on youth with ASD. Participating in a
wilderness experience is an area that has shown to increase QoL in similar audiences (Duvall &
Kaplan, 2014). The Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory (PedsQL) Teen Report was used to
measure the effects of this nature-based group recreation approach as well as conducting
informal interviews and observations. This was a pilot study to determine if further research was
needed. Results were mixed. Quantitative data showed no statistically significant change in
pre/post assessment. Qualitative data indicated potential QoL benefits to participation. Groupbased
wilderness trips for youth with ASD is a potential avenue to explore for increases in QoL.
A Field Project submitted to the faculty of the University of Minnesota by Matthew Lindberg in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Environmental Education, December 2018. Committee chair: Ken Gilbertson. This item has been modified from the original to redact the signatures present.
Benefits of Group-based Wilderness Trips for Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
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