Autism and Nature is developing a range of projects to practically help parents, carers and teachers to engage children with autism and related disabilities with the natural world and raise awareness of the benefits. In addition to the publications described below, we also plan to undertake research to learn more about the benefits of connecting children with the natural world.
We are producing a series of county guide books, to help parents, carers and teachers of children with autism to access nature and the countryside. The guides should also be useful to those living and working with adults on the autistic spectrum. The guides introduce the benefits of nature and the countryside for children with autism. Each guide provides useful information on more than twenty ‘natural’ places to visit in the countryside that we believe many children with autism will enjoy. Our guides help adults to judge the suitability of natural places for their child, to plan visits and to prepare their child for a visit. Our first guide ‘Visiting the Kent countryside’ was published in 2012, with support from a wide range of conservation organisations and autism charities. We have since published six more guides to counties in the South East and East Anglia, and one specialist guide to the New Forest. These guides are free to download on our Publications page.
We are producing illustrated children’s story books for younger children with autism to complement our county guides. In our first book, ‘Alex and Rosie’s Adventures in East Sussex’, two young children called Alex and Rosie visit most of the natural places featured in our East Sussex countryside guide. From the short stories about each place, children will learn about wildlife they might see and activities they can undertake in the countryside. We use Widgit symbols for children with speech and language difficulties who rely on visual supports. Eight ‘Alex and Rosie’ adventure books are free to download on our Publications page.
We have recently launched an exciting new series of colouring books based on the Alex and Rosie adventure books. The first in the series, ‘Alex and Rosie’s Suffolk Colouring Book’ was published in 2017. Colouring books for children in Surrey and Essex were published in 2018, with our most recent colouring book, for children in the New Forest published in 2019. Colouring can be a calming and therapeutic exercise, allowing children to learn about the countryside as they colour. Art can also improve communication with children who are visually oriented, and who find the use of words or language difficult. Four ‘Alex and Rosie’ colouring books are free to download on our Publications page.
In early 2018, we published the first in a new series of county guides to help parents, carers and teachers to engage children with autism with their local heritage. ‘Exploring Suffolk’s Heritage’ presents a guide to some fantastic museums of rural life, castles, mediaeval buildings set in picturesque villages and some exciting archaeological sites. Like our countryside guides, they are designed to help adults to judge the suitability of places for their child, providing useful information to help adults to plan visits and to prepare their child for a visit. Our heritage guides should help families to experience and learn about their heritage, and how people lived and worked in rural areas in the past. We try to choose heritage places that will allow children the additional benefits of being in the countryside. In 2019 we published our second local heritage guide, for Kent. Our guides are free to download on our Publications page.
We will be adding new books to the website as we publish them. We are currently working on colouring books for children in Kent and West Sussex, and a guide to visiting heritage places in Essex.