April is Autism Awareness Month. KVEO’s Marlane Rodriguez met with a teacher who uses a therapeutic garden to help students with autism cope with difficulties that come with the disorder.
“The garden originally started… as a therapeutic outlet for my students. They were going through frustration, anger, and other emotional issues. When I bring them out here they relax, they forget about their problems, once they start digging in to the ground.”
Manuel Salinas is a Behavior Intervention Teacher at Vela Middle School in Brownsville, “I work with students that have been labeled ED [Emotionally Disturbed] or AU [Autistic] on the Autism spectrum.”
News Center 23 spoke with students on the life skills learned in the garden.
Sixth grader, David Barger said the garden is calming for him,“whenever I’m mad it calms me down most of the time.” Victor Alonso, a sixth grader, said he learns important life lessons and patience,“to get things done you have to get messy.” Seventh grader Catherine Briones said the garden provides tranquility for her, as she planted watermelon seeds, “it’s really peaceful to just sit here and just plant some seeds.” Alex Torres, an eighth grader, said he is grateful for Salinas and the garden, “a long time ago I used to have a lot of anger issues, but thanks to Mr. Salinas and his garden I’m finally controlled.” Christian Hernandez, a seventh grader, held beats and tomatoes as he explained a key virtue he learned, “the patience comes from how long it takes for the plants to grow like the tomatoes and beats.”
Salinas calls the garden an outdoor classroom. The students learn math, reading and research skills, but most importantly, they learn to cope with life’s little hurdles.