Sensory garden bonds college students, disabled

Posted at 7:00 PM, May 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-31 15:55:42-04

A sensory garden at the Wil-O-Way Center in Grant Park is planting a seed.

From that seed, friendships are growing between Occupational Therapy Assistant students at Bryant & Stratton College and disabled adults in the Adult Day Services of Southeast Wisconsin program at Wil-O-Way.

The group is engaged in a partnership to create an accessible sensory garden at the park. The students are learning to help people develop, recover and improve skills needed for daily living and working- like gardening.

For the adults in the program, it's improving their daily lives.

"I'm learning about happy," explained Thomas Tadyshak, a day program participant.

Aaron Tesch, the Program Coordinator for the Adult Day Services of Southeast Wisconsin, said watching plants grow, taking care of them helps the adults look forward to a new day.

"Our participants have been told what they can't do and what they're not going to be. And we prefer to think of it as what they can do," said Tesch.

What they can do, is garden. And create something anyone who visits can enjoy- no matter their abilities.

"We tap into our hearing and our vision and our smell and our touch and all those great sensations we kind of overlook," explained Deb McKernan-Ace, the OTA program director at Bryant & Stratton College. McKernan-Ace said that's why OTA students are uniquely suited to creating this garden.

Now, Bryant & Stratton College is accredited for OTA, so students will be able to sit for national certification.

The garden they create will be Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant- meaning anybody who wishes to will be able to enjoy it.