Barker-Mill Foundation gives another boost to Autism and Nature’s New Forest venture

Autism and Nature, a non-profit organisation with a charitable purpose, that aims to enrich the lives of individuals with autism through nature, has received a further £6,225.65 boost from Barker-Mill Foundation (BMF). This follows a donation last year of £1,000 in support of the organisation’s local New Forest based project, allowing the organisation to publish two New Forest based booklets.

As part of their work, Autism and Nature produces local guide books for a range of areas across the south and east of England to assist carers in engaging autistic children with the countryside. The extra funding from BMF will enable Autism and Nature to produce a 32-page story book for children with autism and special education needs (SEN), using clear and attractive illustrations, simple language and Widgit symbols for children with speech and language difficulties who rely on visual supports.

In ‘Alex and Rosie’s Adventures in the New Forest’, the story book funded by BMF, 14 simple stories will describe the adventures of the two fictional children as they visit natural places in the south west Hampshire countryside, including places featured in Autism and Nature’s recently published booklet for parents and carers entitled: ‘Exploring the New Forest by bus: a guide for families with children with autism’. The original booklet was co-funded by BMF following a previous donation to the charity.

The donation from BMF enables Autism and Nature to expand their work and continue to produce guide books for the New Forest – providing an opportunity for local families and schools caring for autistic children to involve them with nature in the New Forest National

Park. With the help of Autism Hampshire, 1,000 copies of the story book will be distributed to schools and families in the local area. The project should directly benefit approximately 1,000 children with autism and SEN, particularly those of early years, pre- and primary school age. From the stories, children will learn about some of the wildlife they might see in the New Forest and activities they might undertake in the countryside, such as making natural art and bird watching.

Tim Jobling, Trustee at the Barker-Mill Foundation said: “We were more than happy to provide further funding to Autism Nature, the organisation is unique in their approach to autism and we’re really astounded by the great work they’ve produced.

“The organisation’s simple yet effective approach to enriching the lives of children with autism is something we are proud to support and hope they continue the expansion of their local guide book range in the coming years.”

Dr David Blakesley, Co-Founder and Director of Autism and Nature said: “We believe that there are compelling benefits for engaging children with autism and related disabilities with the natural world, including benefits to their social skills, well-being and learning. Our guides and story books are designed to assist carers in connecting these children to the natural world. The countryside provides children with sensory experiences and an opportunity to develop new interests.

“The symbolised text and illustrations in our new story book funded by BMF will allow adults to explore topics and ideas with their children, for example ‘Alex and Rosie’ may encounter bees collecting pollen on wildflowers, woodpeckers drumming in deciduous woodland, stonechats on a New Forest heath and so on. Symbols and illustrations will reinforce ideas and encourage children with speech and language difficulties to communicate more. Parents and teachers have told us that our stories help to overcome barriers by helping younger children to understand what they might see, experience and do in the countryside.

“We are very grateful to BMF for providing extra funding to make our story book a reality, and we would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to them. We’ve enjoyed our time in the New Forest and it’s very rewarding to support parents and carers, and their children.”

Autism and Nature relies on support such as that from BMF, and their contribution has helped them bring the benefits of nature to autistic children in Hampshire.

For more information about Autism and Nature please contact David.Blakesly@autismandnature.org.uk , and to apply for funding from the Barker-Mill Foundation please visit http://barkermillfoundation.com/apply/.