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Vellayani Agriculture College: 'Horticulture Therapy' Used to Help People with Disabilities

Meanwhile, the evolution of horticulture as a discipline over the last two centuries has broadened the subject's scope. Horticulture's scope as a discipline has changed dramatically, from cultivating herbal medicines to addressing debilitating nutrient-related disorders. It is now used to treat children with disabilities as a subject known as Horticulture Therapy.

Shivam Dwivedi
Gardening- Best Therepy
Gardening- Best Therepy

Gardening is a daily activity in many households or a hobby for people who want to connect with nature. It is also a business opportunity nowadays, as more household businesses flourish across the country. The sight of daffodils and sunflowers basking in the evening light, and the leaves swaying in a gentle breeze, unquestionably calms and keeps you alive.

Meanwhile, the evolution of horticulture as a discipline over the last two centuries has broadened the subject's scope. Horticulture's scope as a discipline has changed dramatically, from cultivating herbal medicines to addressing debilitating nutrient-related disorders. It is now used to treat children with disabilities as a subject known as Horticulture Therapy.

Horticultural Therapy

Horticultural Therapy is an interdisciplinary approach to human development that combines social and behavioural science with horticulture and environmental science. The American Horticultural Therapy Association (AHTA) defines HT as an individual's participation in gardening and plant-based activities with the assistance of a therapist to achieve specific treatment goals. It's important to remember that therapy can help people with disabilities improve their memory, cognitive abilities, task initiation, language skills, and socialization.

The Kerala Agricultural University's College of Agriculture in Thiruvananthapuram is the first academic institution in India to show interest in developing the theory, research, and practice of horticultural therapy. The 'Horticultural Therapy Garden' at the College of Agriculture in Vellayani is a one-of-a-kind facility in India that teaches students the knowledge and skills needed to work in social, therapeutic, and vocational horticultural settings.

Beela GK, a professor in the Department of Community Science, has been instrumental in bringing HT to Kerala and assisting those with disabilities. Over the last decade, the College of Agriculture's Department of Community Science initiated skill development programmes for those with disabilities, broadening the subject's scope beyond its theoretical foundations. 

Horticultural therapy provides one-on-one interaction and sensory stimulation to people with disabilities. This method has proven to be an excellent one for bringing about significant changes in people's lives. It aids in the development of fine motor skills, gross motor skills, and eye-hand coordination in people with disabilities. Furthermore, HT has been shown to help people control their anger, anxiety, and frustration. It also aids in the resolution of social and communication issues.

Furthermore, group gardening encourages social relationship gatherings to collaborate. After experimenting with various techniques, sensory stimuli (colour, smell, touch, and sound) can be elevated above their normal level. Following up can be made easier through multiple steps of engaging with plants. Children's extracurricular activities become more potent when they work with plants. There is potential for these individuals to gain confidence and promise as a result of the training.

Previously, a project conducted by the College of Agriculture, Vellayani, with financial assistance from the State Horticulture Mission, investigated the effects of HT in children with disabilities. "Students with disabilities were given three months of training, which resulted in noticeable changes in their behaviour. The programme was a huge success. Based on our successes, we decided to launch programmes for students interested in becoming HT trainers. This was one of India's first and only training programmes "said Dr. A Anil Kumar, Dean of Faculty at Vellayani College of Agriculture.

In Kerala, there is enormous potential and scope for HT. However, horticultural therapy is relatively unknown among the general public and academics. Meanwhile, it is worth noting that there has been a noticeable improvement in the skills of disabled children, which leads to social well-being. Furthermore, many organisations have established therapeutic gardens in various locations throughout the state that are accessible to children.

In 2016, the Centre for Disability Studies (CeDS), Poojappura, adopted HT in ten schools in Thiruvananthapuram to assist those in need. Despite its popularity among children, the initiative encountered several challenges, including a lack of resources and manpower to manage school gardens. "HT was well received by students at school. However, due to difficulties in managing the garden, schools were unable to complete the project. Furthermore, the pandemic halted the initiative "Dr. Naveen S, CeDS's director-in-charge, stated

How does Horticulture Therapy Programmes Function?

The College of Agriculture in Vellayani offers horticultural therapy programmes to a wide range of beneficiaries, including the differently-abled, autism, and speech-impaired. The results are extremely impressive after they have happily participated in garden activities and have socialised with the students. This motivates us to create a post-graduate diploma programme to train horticulture therapists. We are pleased to inform you that the first batch of PG Diploma Course in HT students began training in March. The course currently has six students enrolled.

The Community Horticulture Therapy garden, a plant-dominated environment designed to facilitate interaction with nature's healing elements, allows the children to interact with nature. The garden's main features are wide and gently graded accessible entrances and paths, raised planting beds, rotating pots, hanging pots with pulleys, hugging the tree, vertical gardening, a pond, and a sensory-oriented plant selection focusing on colour, texture, and fragrance.

"I chose the course because there is so much potential in the field. Our college is India's only one with an HT programme. In the field, there is a tremendous opportunity. So I opted for the course and was enrolled in the first batch of the PG diploma course, along with five others "Satishkumar S, a native of Tamil Nadu and a former graduate student at Tamil Nadu Agriculture University, agreed.

Latest Methods & Technologies in Horticulture Therapy

Many new technologies are being developed and tested. Various adaptive structures are also being developed for ease of access. Gardens are modified to accommodate the type of disability. In the field, new technologies such as neurofeedback machines for client data collection are being used to broaden the scope of the subject.

Horticulture Therapy is a course offered at Vellayani College of Agriculture.

(One-year PG Diploma in Horticultural Therapy)

Course Goal:

  • To comprehend the history and practices of horticultural therapy.

  • Create and implement Horticultural Therapy activities for the targeted population.

  • To differentiate between therapeutic, vocational, and social programmes.

  • To learn how to establish a Horticultural Therapy Garden.

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