Arbor Day Exploration: Musings of Autism



Arbor Day/ International Day of Forests/ Agricultural Week



As we studied the rain forest trees this week, this cute craft from the past came to mind.   I thought it would be a good time to share it here with Arbor Day coming up this month.  This month is also Autism Awareness Month.  A month that will always be observed in my life and heart.  I love being able to use my blog as a sort of journal for all the things my son and I have done together!  For me, scrolling through this post will be a tearful reminder of how much he has overcome.


(Awaiting Feeding Therapy Team appointment with Occupation Therapist, Neurologist, SLP, and Nutritionist he no longer needs.)


Plus, it is wonderful to have this time to write it all out and share with you.  We have been through so much together but I’ve never had the time to write extensively about it less note taking on his progression.



Though I’ve been writing for a few short months, I have been providing support curriculum for my son going on 4 years now.  During that time PJ was diagnosed with “severe to moderate” autism.  He was 3 years old at a developmental level of  a 3 mo. old infant.



We spent much of our days working on basic skills like learning to sit in a chair (without falling), using whole words to communicate, over coming fears (water, sun light, tastes, textures, sounds ect.), pointing at things when asked a question, and generally tolerating others.

 He and I attended many different types of therapy sessions. Our days of learning were intensive.




Through it all I have tried to keep things as fun as possible.  This he knew as going to “listen”.  He had a blast during Integrated Listening Therapy!   




 Pet therapy for “gentle touch”

image image



Reading dog therapy….
Years of Speech…


Phenomenal Speech therapy I might add…Oh how we miss Phenomemal SLP as I called her!



There was no time left to do things like run a blog with a 40 plus hour 7 day a week learning program and several therapy sessions squeezed in between.  Let’s not over look the hours of meal planning for a special diet or home programs for building tolerance.  These programs are often not spoken about but the most difficult for individuals with autism.


“Going Shopping”    A program that started at 5 minutes of tolerance per trip.  The faithful backpack was a necessity that has since faded out of the trip. So has the shopping cart!

image image


“Hair Cutting”.   A program to build tolerance so that cutting his hair didn’t “hurt” his ears and head.  Our first cut with electric clippers and a salt tray graduated to a professional haircut.

image image


“Finger Nail Clipping”.   A program to build tolerance for clipping his nails which I previously could not even do successfully in his sleep.  Now he cuts his own nails!




Now that PJ is catching up to his peers (in the case of science he is ahead) there are very few days of data trials with cards (an additional aide for memory retention), I have more time on my hands.



 4 years old labeling parts of the brain image


Don’t get me wrong.  

Though he has lost a diagnosis of autism, we still have much learning to do.  There are social skills, speech, motor skills to strengthen, and academics in general to work on Afterschool.  But these days CAN be and are now be filled with much more musing over his beautiful personality than wondering what is wrong or what hurts when he isn’t “himself” because he can’t tell me.




 Now there are more moments where he is leading me than in the past during our learning together.   The following activity was one such musing of his curious exploration that led our learning.


Things you will need 

4 pieces of contact paper


washable paint

paint brush

Bottle caps (one for each color of paint your child will         use)



Tape 4 pieces of cardstock paper together at the corners.  Turn the new whole piece of paper over and paint a trunk with sprawling branches.  I helped him do this part but you can let your child complete the task if they are ready.

Arbor Day tree craft


He used bottle caps top side down and dipped in paint to create leaves for his tree.  I remember how much he enjoyed blending the colors of the leaves on the paper.

Arbor Day tree Craft




The finished master piece still hangs on our wall. This year we plan to make one for each season.  Next is summer!
Arbor Day Tree Craft




Now for the fun part!  While the tree craft is drying go outdoors and explore.



PJ took lots samples of tree parts.  He even took samples of things that were growing around trees.

Tree exploration



We explored different types of bark and the insects that live under bark.  I explained vocabulary words, labeled parts, and introduced adjectives as he moved around from tree to tree.  We were at a huge mountain recreational park area.  Tons of variety there!

Tree exploration


He found sticky sap…





and a sapling!  

Finding the sapling that was planted inside an old cut down tree was the best.  It took his exploration on a side trail of internet searches for ways to help the environment by planting trees.  Really, it was the core of what I hoped he would learn about Arbor Day.  We still check on the growing sapling to this day.Tree exploraion




After collecting “tree” items PJ took them how to sort them by leaves, branches, bark, ect.




I left his art along with containers of tree materials out so that it would be accessible to him for a few weeks.  He talked about his tree exploration trips, labeled parts of trees, and matched parts to his craft.



Both PJ and my daughter love reading “The Giving Tree” as much as I do.  This 20 year old copy was one of the first books I bought for his sister.  It is a great book to read for learning about why we need trees and all they give us.  PJ used his craft and tree findings to retell parts of the story several times.  

Tree book and craft extension



I enjoyed watching PJ learn using all his senses for Arbor Day! We smelled the scent of pine and felt various textures.  He was very engaged and remembered lots of new vocabulary.   It was the start of  a new type of independent style of learning ..his way.


How will your child explore Arbor Day this year?    Please comment below.  I’d love to hear about your plans and experiences!


Places I share…

Christian Montessori Network

“>Learn and Play Link Up


Hip Homeschool Moms

“>Hip Homeschool Moms


Teaching Mama

“>Everything Early Childhood Link Up


Preschool and Kindergarten Community Weekly Link Up




Thank you for reading!


Crystal 🙂





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Hi! My name is Crystal. I am a mom of two. My daughter is 18. My son ,who attends public school, also needs a little extra help afterschool. This blog is all about how we keep learning fun at home as an extension of his school day and during school breaks.

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