‘A new adventure’: a case study of autistic children at Forest School

Friedman, Samantha, Gibson, Jenny, Jones, Catherine and Hughes, Claire (2022) ‘A new adventure’: a case study of autistic children at Forest School. Journal of Adventure Education & Outdoor Learning. ISSN 1472-9679 (In Press)

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1080/14729679.2022.2115522


Spending time in nature has benefits for wellbeing in children, but relatively little is known about how autistic children experience nature. Framed by self-determination theory, this case study addresses this gap by exploring the experiences of 25 autistic children participating in a Forest School at their specialist school in the East of England. We used deductive reflexive thematic analysis to analyse participant observation and parent and child interview data. Our results indicated that Forest School benefited these autistic children through opportunities to play, exercise autonomy, and develop practical, motor, and social skills. However, challenges were also evident, including children absconding and conflict between peers. The success of sessions seemed contingent on adherence to routines and the influence of the adults present. Our findings supported the application of self-determination theory to Forest School to promote psychological wellbeing through autonomy, competence, and relatedness in autistic children. We discuss implications for training and practice.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Funding information: This work was supported by the St Edmund’s College, University of Cambridge
Uncontrolled Keywords: Autism, Forest School, nature-based learning, self- determination theory, reflexive thematic analysis
Subjects: L500 Social Work
X900 Others in Education
Department: Faculties > Health and Life Sciences > Social Work, Education and Community Wellbeing
Depositing User: Rachel Branson
Date Deposited: 22 Sep 2022 13:26
Last Modified: 23 Sep 2022 10:28
URI: https://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/50208

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