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Forest School Explained: Additional Needs

Forest School is an amazing approach, catering more to a child as an individual than focusing on academic achievements. This makes it an effective learning tool, especially for children with autism and learning difficulties.

“Case studies have shown that children with complex learning difficulties including autism, behavioural difficulties, speech and language difficulties and problems with hearing and vision can benefit from Forest School.

SEN children tend to respond well because of the multi-sensory and enabling environment of Forest School, where children can explore and take supported risks. Particular benefits include gaining more independence, reducing anxiety and creating a sense of belonging” (Gust Forest School, 2022)

This is because Forest School can offer:

· A person-centred approach takes into account the differences and needs of every individual.

Special interests are welcome in Forest School and are a great way to engage students.

· Forest School recognises that autism brings strengths!

Giving students opportunities to be imaginative and challenge themselves can help them not only learn more about themselves but their skills and talents.

· Forest School encourages an interest in nature which brings along its own benefits. Sensory rooms often feature recordings of running water, wind or rainfall, and gently shifting light. All of this is already in the woods!

Forest School practitioners can use nature for the student's sensory needs. There is so much to be explored or, if there is a need to reduce stimuli, quiet spaces can be created in sitting spots, dens or hammocks.

· Building up confidence, resilience and self-esteem is central to the Forest School approach.

Recognising individual achievement is very important – for some, it may be trying a new kind of food or showing an improved ability to interact with others.

· Social interactions can take place at the student's own pace, helping them gain confidence and join in on their own terms.

Forest School allows space for individuals who feel overwhelmed and group activities for those who are looking to interact.

· The Forest School ethos states that everyone is a learner. Teachers, support staff, and practitioners are all encouraged to reflect and learn alongside children. This is great for learners with specific needs as it allows the adults to learn more about the child as an individual and to appreciate their gifts, sensory and communication needs.

The relationship build during Forest School together with observations, can be carried over into the rest of the child’s education to help them reach their full potential.

In summary, Forest School is all about supporting students' individual needs. There are so many opportunities for learning and development within a woodland setting that those with specific needs, with a caring and informed practitioner, can blossom.

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