mj Forest School is a place that’s committed to celebrating and embracing neurodiversity through their work, Michael James, the founder, explains more about how they’re going about this.
Tell us about your project
I run autism accepting Forest School sessions. I’m also on a mission to get the Forest School community to talk about neurodiversity.
“It was a great learning experience. It was a lot of fun and I was interested in seeing my autism from a different perspective. It’s helped me to learn some of the organisational life skills I’ll need to move on into employment.”Jack
What are you trying to do?
In my day to day work I’m trying to make sure that autistic people and people with learning disabilities can get out into nature to learn and have a great time.
I also try to spread the word about neurodiversity through writing, running workshops, giving talks and launching a “Forest School and Autism” website in early 2020. At this years Forest School Association Conference I managed to give the keynote speakers platform to Andy Smith and Stay Up Late to put neurodivergent voices at the centre of the conversation. Nothing about us without us.
What makes it different to other projects?
Lots of people do great Forest School with neurodivergent kids and adults. I just go on about it more! I try to validate other practitioners, share practice across the Forest School community and bring neurodivergent voices into the conversation.
Why do you see yourself as punks in the community?
It’s all about climbing over the fence and creating opportunities. It doesn’t matter if it’s being in a punk band, going clubbing or getting out into the woods with sharp tools and fires. It’s the same ethos and it makes the world a much bigger and more exciting place for people with learning disabilities and autistic people. Maybe most importantly, it’s about having fun. Nothing can break barriers down as much as having great time together.
“Michael makes things equal. There is a level playing field and he flattens the power. If you walked through the woods, you wouldn’t know who was staff and who was the clients sometimes. Everyone is sat by the fire … “Sue
What’s your top tip for ‘keeping it punk’ and making a difference to people’s lives?
If you see a need for something and no one else is doing it then just go for it. You’ll be surprised by what you can achieve if you have a real passion for making a difference.
What other groups inspire you?
Stay Up Late!
Andy Smith. Check out his Spectrum of Possibilities Facebook page
Sarah Lawfull at Where the Fruit Is
All the great people who I’ve worked with over the last 18 years. Supporting people with autism and people with learning disabilities is the best job anyone could have.
To find out more
Michael’s working on a website but encourages you to find out more in the old skool way, by reading his book Forest School and Autism – A Practical Guide
Perhaps you could go even further and take it out in to a local woodland, have a little fire and put on a pot of tea. Perfect!