April is Autism Awareness Month, and no one does more locally for the cause than professional golfer Ernie Els and his family.
This year, the Jupiter-based Els Center of Excellence is eagerly awaiting its new Sensory Arts Garden, which will provide a creative place that can be experienced through touch, sight, hearing, smell, taste and movement.
The focus of this year’s giving campaign, the project will feature special outdoor areas or “garden rooms,” each featuring different plants and textures. The area will be healing and therapeutic for individuals with autism and other sensory processing challenges, because they can interact with nature in their own way and at their own pace.
“Nature offers children and adults with autism spectrum disorder with wonderful opportunities for adventure, exploration and engagement,” says Dr. Marlene Sotelo, director of programs and operations for the Els for Autism Foundation. “When individuals with autism engage with nature, they develop not only a special interest in birds, animals or plants, but also opportunities to develop their social skills.”