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  • Writer's pictureNina Dmitreff

The Benefits of Plant and Animal Caretaking for Individuals With Autism

"It's no fluke that relationships are often said to be “cultivated.” Like gardens, fields of crops, or farm animals, relationships require consistent effort and responsiveness to feedback. But where interpersonal feedback can feel like criticism or rejection, feedback from plants and animals is clearly not personal. A goat who’s trying to take extra food from you isn’t doing that because he doesn’t like you. He’s doing that because he feels you aren’t in control of the grain you’re holding. Respond to this by adopting more confident, assertive body language, and he’ll respond by backing off.


By offering people with autism a nonjudgmental space in which they can practice interpreting feedback and adapting in accordance with it, plant and animal caretaking helps position them for success during human interactions. Not only do they learn that they don’t have to take others’ responses personally, but they also learn that those responses provide the intel they need for future interactions. Human conversation is an iterative process defined by trial and error, just like animal and plant caretaking."





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