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A sensory garden is a self-contained garden area that allows visitors to enjoy a wide variety of sensory experiences. Sensory gardens are designed to provide opportunities to stimulate the senses, both individually and in combination, in ways that users may not usually encounter.
Sensory gardens have a wide range of educational and recreational applications. They can be used in the education of special-needs students, including people with autism. As a form of horticultural therapy, they may be helpful in the care of people with dementia.
Sensory gardens can be designed in such a way as to be accessible and enjoyable for both disabled and non-disabled users. A sensory garden, for example, may contain features accessible to the disabled individual such as: scented and edible plants, sculptures and sculpted handrails, water features designed to make sound and play over the hands, textured touch-pads, magnifying-glass screens, braille and audio induction loop descriptions. Depending on the user group, other provisions may integrate sound and music more centrally to combine the play needs of younger users with their sensory needs.
Many sensory gardens devote themselves to providing experience for multiple senses; those specialising in scent are sometimes called scented gardens, those specialising in music/sound are sound gardens where the equipment doubles up to provides an enhanced opportunity for strategic developmental, learning and educational outcomes.
Sensory Gardens usually have an enhanced infrastructure to permit wheelchair access and meet other accessibility concerns; the design and layout provides a stimulating journey through the senses, heightening awareness, and bringing positive learning experiences.
The Blindengarten in the Bad Homburg Spa Park (Kurpark) in Germany is a "smell and touch" garden comprising eight thematically-planted raised beds (culinary herbs, medicinal herbs, roses, grasses, etc) arranged around a central fountain that can provide acoustic orientation for blind and visually-impaired people.
An experiential feature in the "World of the Senses" (Welt der Sinne). The design of this extensive sensory garden and house in Bremervörde, Germany, was inspired by the ideas of Hugo Kükelhaus (1900–1984) regarding "fields of experience for the development of the senses" and is intended for use by everyone, regardless of disabilities.
This sensory garden inside the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden, Brazil, is designed to sharpen the senses of touch and smell, and sometimes taste. Visitors with special needs, including the blind and visually impaired, are welcomed by a team of counselors (some of whom are themselves visually challenged). Blindfolded guided tours are also a feature.
Sensory Dementia Gardens
Sensory gardens can be designed specifically for dementia patients. Dementia is a disorder that affects many parts of the brain and many parts of everyday life. Simple tasks such as walking or eating become difficult. Most commonly known is that dementia affects memory. Sensory or therapeutic gardens can be used to reduce the symptoms of dementia without the use of drugs though stimulation of the senses and the exercise of certain part of the brain. A part of the brain affected last is the amygdala which primarily handles emotions and feelings. Therefore things like sensory gardens can be very impactful on dementia patients because they elicits positive emotions. Features could include: water features that produces soothing sounds, pick-and-sniff herb and flower beds, and benches with different types of sand or pebbles to sink their feet into. In a sensory garden located in Port Macquarie, Australia one of the patients enjoys sinking his toes into the sand as it elicits memories of Australia for him while the gravel reminds him of Scotland where he was born which he does not enjoy as much. In addition to eliciting positive emotions, sensory gardens can also greatly improve the quality of live for those living with dementia. Other benefits include regaining independence, a calming and relaxing place, and an easy and safe way to exercise.
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