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Creating Autism Accepting Communities Through Forest School - 2-day workshop (Oxfordshire)

This two-day workshop explores how the relational, strengths-based approach of Forest School meets the needs of many autistic people. Taking lived autistic experience as our starting point this co-created workshop will offer practical advice on providing nurturing, person-centred outdoor experiences to meet the needs of autistic learners. Together we will explore ways Forest School pedagogy and practice can promote autism accepting learning communities, promoting positive impacts that reach beyond the woods. There will be a discussion about the Neurodiversity Paradigm and the Social Model of Disability and why it is important that these ideas are embedded in our practice.

We will reflect on how we can establish autism acceptance at all levels of the Forest School community. What does ‘quality Forest School for all’ look like from the perspective of autistic young people and neurodivergent practitioners?
This workshop is open to everyone who cares about creating a safe, kind, compassionate education system that serves autistic people well.

Please join us if you are a neurodivergent or neurotypical: practitioner, homeschooling parent, teacher, Forest School leader, SEND leader, mental health or social care professional.

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Event Details

Who facilitates the course?

Michael James has over 20 years of experience supporting autistic people in a variety of settings and is the author of “Forest School and Autism”. His book offers a paradigm shift from a deficit, even medicalised model of autism, identifying how the relational, strengths-based approach of Forest School meets the needs of many autistic people. His wisdom, compassion and commitment to changing the story for autistic people, with autistic people, have already had a significant impact on Forest School practice. He is an experienced level 3 Forest School practitioner whose workshops fill immediately at conferences.

Andy Smith’s talk at the ‘Under One Tree’ conference brought his experiences growing up as an undiagnosed autistic child and teenager to the Forest School community. The honesty of his presentation blew our minds. His work as a SEND ambassador and advocate for autistic young people led him to set up the charity Spectrum Gaming, with other volunteers, during the pandemic, to provide safe places for autistic children and young people where friendships can be made. Andy loves Forest School. Listen to a recent Facebook live conversation here:

What topics will be covered?

  • What is Autism? Discussion of the process and history of AS diagnosis and why the learner-led ethos of Forest School can suit AS learners
  • Partnership working and the importance of preparation
  • Communication and social interaction – individual communication profiles and effective channels of communication that work well e.g. social stories
  • Social interaction and play-time and space inherent in the Forest School approach
  • Executive function and systemising
  • Autistic ‘passions’
  • Sensory processing difficulties and consideration of a sensory toolkit for Forest School and outdoor learning
  • Supporting people during stress and anxiety – challenging the anxiety cycle
  • Creating anti-bullying cultures – recognising bullying and knowing how to stop it
  • Social expectations and sense of self
  • Use of language – ‘clean’ and identity-first’ language compared with person-first
  • Understanding the significant barriers faced by neurodivergent people
  • Planning for autism inclusive Forest School – creating autism-friendly policies
  • Exploring what needs to be added to Forest School training – ‘nothing about us without us’
  • Time and space to share questions, offer peer to peer supervision
  • Compassionate practice and support mechanisms
  • Meeting the needs of families/ parents with autistic family members
  • Measuring impact – case studies
  • Contributing to wider thinking about equality, equity, diversity and inclusion

We will be outside for much of the training, participants are asked to dress for the weather, with appropriate footwear, and to bring a camping chair. All activities are fully risk assessed. Participants will need to bring their own lunch, refreshments will be provided. we will have access to the Training Barn and a toilet which is only used by us.

Please contact us if you need to pay in instalments or are unable to pay and really need to attend.

Training Dates: 26th -27th April 2024


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