Adults and young people on the autism spectrum of all ages and abilities can build their confidence and creativity by taking part in our forest school activities. They take place in a natural woodland setting in Chewton Mendip, with the kind permission of the Waldegrave Estate, and our wildlife area in Somerset Court. Our structured sessions give the people we support a chance to engage with nature and participate in a wide variety of exciting outdoor activities in a safe and positive environment.
Our main sessions run during the weekdays, where we welcome interest from people of all ages.
Environment and facilities
Our forest school takes place in rich, sensory environments. Our staff take into account the sensory profile of each person to ensure that the experience complements their needs and allows them to connect with nature in a personal, rewarding way. As we are engaging with nature, the focus of our sessions will change with the seasons, giving the people we support the opportunity to try different activities and see nature differently throughout the year. From a flowing spring to a wonderful variety of wildlife including deer, owls and woodpeckers and an array of tree species, we are lucky to have such plentiful environments for our forest school.
Activities make use of natural resources, from crafts to fire building, which encourages the people we support to develop their resourcefulness and creativity. We do use various tools to support our forest activities, ensuring that full safety procedures are carried out. To ensure that we minimise the impact our activities have on the environment, we enjoy our forest school sessions in a sustainable way, informed by specially trained leaders.
Leisure and learning activities
The rich resources available to us in the woodland give people we support the chance to be involved in a number of activities. People can explore the woodlands through a game of bingo, collecting items that can be found in their surroundings. They might make a pencil from charcoal, or a whistle from elder wood. They will work together as a team, to build a shelter or a fire to cook food on. The people who join our forest school make excellent progress - they improve on communication and social skills through teamwork, motor skills through practical activities and discover their strengths through a structured yet highly flexible programme.
We are even training a young man we support to be a Forest School assistant. He has already gained a two-day outdoor first aid certificate, and we hope he goes on to take further qualifications and move from voluntary to paid work.
Forest School has been a great learning opportunity for me. [It] has opened up a lot of work opportunities especially when I get my Level One qualification. It’s always fun, I like working outside with the people from the NAS.
Young man we support in our forest school
We ensure that the sessions at our Forest School take into account the needs, wishes and interests of each individual taking part. As an integrated part of each person’s full support package, the sessions are built to complement their person-centred plan. Our main aim is to ensure that the forest school sessions remain captivating, relevant and accessible to each person so they can build upon their skills and confidence. We want to help uncover their strengths, and support them to set their own challenging, but achievable goals.
The gentleman [I support] has shown that he can learn better visually and appears to enjoy a group environment. It has been a very successful activity which meets many of his needs and has also increased his visual skills and abilities. [He] appears to thoroughly enjoy Forest School sessions to which he is now asking every week to go.
Hannah, senior support worker
Alongside being experienced and qualified to work with people on the autism spectrum, our staff are trained to understand the ethos of Forest Schools, and how it can be applied to each individual to help them to achieve their potential. The sessions are developed and led by practitioners who have achieved the Level 3 Forest School qualification, so they can deliver a high quality outdoor education tailored to the needs of autistic people. We have a high ratio of staff to people we support to ensure our sessions are as safe, enjoyable and accommodating as possible.