Library Dissertation Showcase

Exploring the perceived benefits and barriers to forest school activities for families of autistic children and young people

  • Year of Publication:
  • 2022

Forest school (FS) is linked to a wide range of benefits including improved social skills, increased independence and reduced anxiety. The aim of this pilot study was to extend previous literature by exploring and identifying the benefits and barriers of forest school for homeĀ­-educated Autistic Children and Young People (ACYP) (7-15 years old) and their parents (33-53 years old) attending a six-week forest school programme. It was predicted that the ACYP’s executive functioning, anxiety levels and parents’ level of mental wellbeing would show improvements after the FS programme, however due to low survey response rate this hypothesis was unable to be tested. A mixed methods approach was used, collecting both online pre-post quantitative survey data and qualitative data from semi-structured interviews with parents. Thematic analysis of interview data identified forest school barriers, including group imbalance, fear of risk and lack of wheelchair access. FS benefits identified for the ACYP included increased independence, confidence, and reduction of sensory sensitivities. Parents mental wellbeing improved from informal support in a non-judgmental environment. The results from this study indicate that FS can be highly beneficial for home-educated ACYP and their parents provided the groups are carefully balanced and learning is child-led with no adult demands or expectations.

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