Forest School and Autism

Upon the release of his book, Forest School and Autism, we spoke to author and practitioner Michael James about what exactly Forest School involves, and why it’s so well suited for autistic learners. 

What exactly is meant by the term ‘Forest School’?

The term “Forest School” describes a specific approach to outdoor learning. Forest School has a strong ethos of learner-centered practice combined with an understanding of the benefits to wellbeing which come from regular contact with nature. Forest School is attended by people of all ages and abilities.

forest school

How is Forest School suited to the needs of autistic people?

Well, I’m always very aware of the saying “If you’ve met one person with autism, then you’ve met one person of autism”! The learner-centered ethos of Forest School seeks to accommodate the individual needs of different learners, and this flexibility can allow autistic learners the space to be themselves and engage on their own terms. This space includes the physical space of natural settings, which is far greater than in indoor settings, and also there is more space in time afforded by the Forest School approach. In my experience, this approach can suit autistic learners very well. Another strength of Forest School is the heightened awareness of place which can encourage practitioners to consider the sensory environment which is obviously important when learners have different sensory needs. For Forest School to best meet the needs of autistic learners the practitioner needs to develop autism awareness, and this book aims to promote and encourage that.

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Read an extract from Lisa Carne’s “Natural Curiosity: Educating and Nurturing Our Children at Home”

Carne_Natural-Curiosi_978-1-78592-033-2_colourjpg-printNatural Curiosity is a warm and contemplative insight into one family’s experience of moving from mainstream schooling to home education, and learning through the lens of nature and natural history.

Since becoming “unschooled”, the author’s two children have thrived on a diet of self-directed play and learning, amassing life skills, confidence, responsibility and a vast array of knowledge along the way. This thoughtful book touches upon important themes in education and environmentalism, including children’s rights in schooling, the use and place of technology in learning and the absence of the natural world in mainstream education. It gives a considered, balanced view of home schooling interspersed with entertaining tales, and offers an understanding of how this type of education works and what inspires the choice to pursue it.

>>Click here to download the extract<<