Autism and Green Spaces

Autizmi dhe Hapësirat e Gjelbërta

Autism and Green Spaces

Green spaces have always had an impact on both our mental and physical health. However, little is known nowadays about the impact of these spaces on people with autism, considered globally as one of the most common neurological disorders affecting children. But what is autism? Autism is a complex developmental disorder that typically occurs in the first three years of life and is considered a neurological disorder that affects brain functions. Based on the American Psychological Organization statistical manual, autism disorders involve many areas of development: the ability to interact, the ability to communicate, and the creation of stereotypes in behaviors, interests, and activities.

According to Bronfenbrenner’s theory, we can say that individuals develop in interaction with the environment to which they belong. Numerous researchers have given special attention to environmental risk as a factor that can cause autism. Data from studies show that the percentage of babies born with autism is 8-10% higher in regions contaminated with toxins than in those living in cleaner areas (Kurti, 2013), also an interesting study is that of conducted in 2010 in America entitled “The Relationship between Green Spaces and Autism in Primary School Children in California” whose purpose was to test whether these two environmental factors and autism are related to each other. So does the lack of green spaces cause autism? Is this one of the factors that can lead to the development of this disease? Is there a higher prevalence of autistic children in areas where green spaces are smaller?

Autizmi dhe Hapësirat e Gjelbërta
Courtyard Kindergarten By Mad Architects (c) Arch-Exist

To answer these questions the researchers decided to extend their research to 560 public schools in California. They decided to calculate the green area in all schools including the percentage of forest, small trees and large trees located on the side of the road as well as the area covered with grass. The researchers concluded from the results of this study that a 10% increase in green space directly affects a 10% decrease in the total number of autistic children and a 19% decrease in this number if the amount of trees on the side of the road will increase by 10%.

This binomial between autism-green spaces is proven once again in schools which were close to the main roads. Heavy traffic urban areas were directly related to an increase in the number of autistic children. Hypothesis / The solution that these researchers thought to implement after this study was to increase the number of trees near the main roads by thinking of it as a ‘Form of Prevention’. But it will take many more studies and evidence to fully confirm the correlation between this pathology and green spaces, not forgetting that noise pollution, as a result of heavy traffic, can be another influential factor in autistic children.

Autizmi dhe Hapësirat e Gjelbërta
Fuji Kindergarten School by Tezuka Architects (c) Katsuhisa Kida

In Albania, there is an increase in the number of children with autism from year to year and today, according to data from the Institute of Public Health, 1 in 68 children is affected by autism.

“We are talking about approximately 300 cases in each generation of children, if there are 30 thousand new births. This means that we are at 3 thousand cases, if we count from the age of 2-11 years and if we go from 2 to 22 years old it means that we may be at the number 6 thousand cases. It is a fairly large number compared to what is happening today across our services, in terms of diagnostics. Although from a 2 years old to another from 2010 until today, the number of new cases diagnosed, goes with 30-40% increase every year “- quotes the head of the Psychiatric Service Albania, prof. dr. Ariel Çomo. A very alarming figure considering that it is a pathology with which we have been familiar with a few years. In September 2008 was held the first Albanian National Conference on autism and this is the only data we have today because the diagnosis and confirmation of the first patient is unknown. Although the real causes that lead a child to autism are not yet known, we can say that the debate extends in two directions, inheritance and environment. If by inheritance we mean that particular part of the chromosomes that combine at the moment of fertilization, it means that everything else that happens next is the environment. Green spaces in our country over the years have been halved or even worse. We can not say without a detailed study whether this is an influential factor in the alarming increase in the number of autistic children in our country but we can leave it as a hypothesis and a big question mark hoping that we will give an answer.

Source: NEUAR

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