Thursday, April 29, 2010

Nature Deficit Disorder

I was reading The Engaged Scholar Volume 4 (a publication of Michigan State University's Outreach and Engagement Office) when I came across a phrase I'd never heard before: nature deficit disorder. Fortunately, it listed the book where the term originated, Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. In 20 minutes, I was on my way to the library.

The author makes it clear that nature deficit disorder is not a medical/clinical diagnosis, but rather observation of a trend in which children spend less time outdoors, often have limited access to green space, and thereby have a different relationship to nature. The book also focuses on the calming effects of nature, including the use of green therapy for children with ADHD.

This, of course, started me thinking on Detroit. With high crime rates and lots of cement, it seems to follow many of the patterns listed in the book. However, in many areas, pheasants are sighted in the prairie grasses that have grown over vacant lots. The city has high rates of lead poisoning, which can cause behavioral and cognitive issues in children. ADHD is also prevalent.

With Detroit's agricultural revolution and the efforts to make the city greener, there also comes an opportunity to lead in green therapy and other alternative approaches to children's special needs. We hope soon to establish a partnership between the Children's Center in Detroit and appropriate departments at Michigan State to try green therapy on a small scale.

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