Forest School and Autism

Creating Communities of Belonging

Your mentors

Sarah Lawfull


Andy Smith

Organisation links
Location address: Long Wittenham, OX14 4QT
Chosen age group:

Ages: children - · adults 18 - years

Available tickets:
Adult attendee £260
Next date: None - Register your interest
A summary
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 beyond the woods. Discussions will range from the Neurodiversity Paradigm to the Social Model of Disability and why these ideas must be embedded in our practice to understand stress and how to support young people in crisis. 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.
About your mentors
Sarah Lawfull
Education Consultant, Coach and Trainer
We help leaders and change makers rediscover their purpose and realise their potential by training and coaching in and through nature. Our FSA-endorsed trainers work alongside FSA Recognised Providers, experts in forestry, ecology, SEMH/ SEND, bushcraft and the local FSA-affiliated group, building an effective learning community to nurture and encourage our trainees.
Michael James
Michael James
Michael is the author of Forest School and Autism and works to create autism accepting communities.
Andy Smith
I am an autistic adult and run a charity
(complete later)
Course Facilitators
Michael has over 20 years of experience supporting autistic people in various 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 significantly impacted 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. Sarah Lawfull has over thirty years of experience teaching autistic children in mainstream schools, working in specialist provision and supporting autistic teenagers and children through voluntary youth work. She has learned with parents and from the young people themselves, discovering that the route to improving life for everyone is building effective relationships and communities that value and accept each individual. Working from a strengths-based approach with the loving pedagogy of Forest School, Sarah is committed to changing outcomes for autistic people with autistic people because they are the experts! Reading Michael’s book Forest School and Autism, she realised that if everyone were treated the way he proposes, the education system would work for everyone.
Learning aims
Aim 1
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.
Aim 3
Autistic ‘passions’ and autistic play - how to value and build on these.
Aim 5
Use of language – ‘clean’ and identity-first language compared with person-first.
Aim 7
Time and space to share questions and offer peer-to-peer supervision.
Aim 9
Understanding the significant barriers faced by neurodivergent people and exploring what needs to be added to teacher/ Forest School training – ‘nothing about us without us’.
Aim 2
Communication and social interaction – individual communication profiles and effective channels of communication that work well, e.g. social stories.
Aim 4
Sensory processing difficulties and consideration of a sensory toolkit for Forest School and outdoor learning.
Aim 6
Supporting people during stress and anxiety – challenging the anxiety cycle.
Aim 8
The NEST approach - Nurture - Empathise - Sharing Context - Teamwork ( developed by the Spectrum Gaming Community)
Pricing information
Ticket nameAdult attendee
InformationBreakfast and light refreshments are included. Please bring your own lunch.
Where we'll be
Sylva Foundation, Sylva Wood Centre , Long Wittenham, Oxfordshire, OX14 4QT
Enhanced DBS
Risk Assessment
Public Liability Insurance
Safeguarding Training
First Aid Training
First Aid Kit
Smoke Detector

Please note

Please note, it is the responsibility of the booker to satisfy themselves about the adequacy of the safety measures. This platform is merely an introducer and does not verify the items listed here.

Cancellation Policy
None of the aboveCancel more than one month before the start to receive a full refund unless we can fill your space. We will offer a refund or credit note if the course cannot run.

My experience is an educational activity and the 14-day cooling-off period under the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 therefore applies. After the 14 day period my standard policy will apply.

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