Some students with Nonverbal Learning Disorder, ADHD, and Autism Spectrum Disorder are of above average intelligence, and they may be academically successful. On the other hand, they often experience social alienation because of their impulsivity or inability to interpret social cues.
In our last blog post, we discussed how experiential Learning can be a powerful tool in these situations, allowing a student with an executive function deficit to safely experiment with social interactions. For adolescents in particular, this kind of opportunity at such a tender age can offer an individual insight into how to connect with others. For students who struggle making social connections, providing a safe, nurturing environment to experiment and learn can change the course of their lives.
The struggle then becomes: how to best implement Experiential Learning in the daily lives of individuals with severe ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and Nonverbal Learning Disorder
Experiential Learning and Wilderness Adventure Therapy
One option is to pair Experiential Learning with wilderness adventure therapy. The wilderness itself is known to have a healing effect on the psyche. Studies have shown that wilderness therapy can reduce the symptoms of ADHD, anxiety, and depression. It also offers opportunities for overcoming unique physical, mental, and emotional challenges.
In the wilderness, adolescents have the opportunity to accomplish very tangible objects, and with the right guidance, can apply these learnings to real world challenges. Additionally, overcoming such novel obstacles fosters self-efficacy. For individuals with low self-esteem, the challenges offered by wilderness adventure therapy can change their self-perception, and the way they see their role in the world.
The Benefits of Pairing Experiential Learning with Wilderness Adventure Therapy
Experiential Learning piggybacks off this benefit by converting these isolated triumphs into lessons that can be carried back into the student’s daily life after the wilderness therapy is completed. Additionally, wilderness therapy takes place in a group setting. This in itself can provide multiple benefits:
- A de facto social environment in which – with the help of experienced Field Guides and Therapists – a student can safely practice and sharpen their social skills.
- A safe environment with other individuals struggling with similar challenges; this normalizes these struggles and creates a supportive, accepting network.
- Intensive bonding through shared challenges, which may provide a closeness new to ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and Nonverbal Learning Disorder students struggling with social skills.
Thus, when paired with wilderness therapy- a powerful tool in helping individuals who struggle with executive function deficits – Experiential Learning is compounded, and the results can be very profound.
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About Vantage Point by Aspiro
Vantage Point is a specialized offshoot of Aspiro Adventure, the program that pioneered wilderness adventure therapy. Vantage Point focuses on helping students with executive function disorders, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and Nonverbal Learning Disorders, among others.
The Vantage Point programs are designed to build self-efficacy in our students through overwhelming mastery experiences – our students accomplish goals they never believed possible, which creates a belief that they are capable of changing their own lives for the better. We focus specifically on social dynamics and social skills to help our students connect with others and feel like they can be a part of the world. Experiential Learning is a tenet of our philosophy and our program. Paired with ongoing individual therapy and targeting specific areas for growth, our wilderness therapy programs are proven successful by outcome studies and are overseen by experienced Field Guides and clinical professionals