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Stories from the Field: Mental Health and the Outdoors

Sep 26, 2023

This week, we talk with Jake Weld, an experienced educator and Vice President of Mansfield Hall, as he delves into the multifaceted nature of anxiety among college students diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). With nearly 35% of college students and 40-50% of those with Autism confronting anxiety, this episode aims to unravel why these rates are significantly high within the ASD community. Jake sheds light on various contributing factors, from sensory sensitivities like light and sound to challenges in handling task-based frustrations and navigating social nuances.

Utilizing an illustrative metaphor, Jake depicts the unique neurological landscape of autism as a powerful Ferrari engine constrained by a Yugo's transmission and an old Jeep's suspension. He explains how neurodiverse students' reliance on repetition and familiarity can be challenged by sudden or unexpected changes, leading to fascinating insights into their coping mechanisms.

However, the conversation is not solely about challenges. Jake ardently discusses the therapeutic potential of outdoor adventures and travel for neurodiverse students. He emphasizes that while certain environments may not suit everyone, with appropriate support and guidance, these experiences can become transformative milestones. The episode underscores the significance of inclusion, aiming to ensure that neurodiverse students can access enriching experiences on par with their neuromajority counterparts. Expanding horizons and fostering resilience, adventure, and travel can play a pivotal role in enabling these students to develop a harmonious interdependence with the world around them.

Don't miss out on this enlightening exploration of autism, anxiety, and the enriching potential of embracing the great outdoors.

Season 17 of Stories from the Field is focused on Anxiety and is underwritten by Mountain Valley Treatment Center.