SEND Outdoors Conference Wednesday 6th July 2022

SEND Outdoors Conference

We are excited to be hosting our first ever SEND Outdoors Conference, this summer on the beautiful and sustainable Embercombe Estate in Devon.

As a leading expert in the field of outdoor education with a special interest and deep understanding of supporting autistic students and students with SEMH needs in an outdoor setting, we felt perfectly placed to be hosting this event (the first of its kind!) for educational professionals from around the UK. 

This conference will focus on topics and themes around supporting SEND learners in an outdoor setting and will particularly focus on how neurodivergent learners can be supported and empowered to achieve their full potential through outdoor learning. 

Through speakers, workshops, training and CPD opportunities, the conference will provide attendees with knowledge and understanding as well as support and encourage best practices for those who attend. The conference aims to give the skills and knowledge to implement and encourage improvement back at their place of work, as well as providing a space and opportunity for networking and peer to peer support.

Keynote speakers

alan gardner

Alan Gardner is a well known celebrity gardener, diagnosed with autism in his 50s. Many will recognize him from Channel 4’s ‘Autistic Gardener’. Alan is also a Cultural Ambassador for the National Autistic Society, helping the charity to have a positive impact on people living with autism and campaigning to champion the rights and interests of autistic people and their families.

Since 1996 Alan has designed hundreds of gardens around the world including exhibitions at the internationally renowned Chelsea Flower Show. Alan has a deep love of gardening, being outside in the environment and working with and in nature. His understanding of autism and love of the outdoors positions him to be the perfect headline speaker at our inaugural SEND Outdoors Conference.

michael james & Andy Smith

Michael James is the author of Forest School and Autism, a book that works to fill an existing gap between forest school practitioners and autistic people and those who support them. Michael has worked for 17 years supporting ASC in various settings and has led autism awareness workshops for the Forest School Association. James draws on his vast personal experience to connect these two communities in a brilliantly honest, practical and person-centred way.

Andy Smith is an Inclusion Ambassador and SEND advocate for Bury Council, where he worked for the last 4 years championing the views of SEND children and young people. He also founded Spectrum Gaming, an online community for autistic young people which works to create a community and friendships, increasing self-acceptance, and advocating for autistic people by creating a movement that will have a positive influence on society and the way autistic people are seen.

The Outdoors Group Workshops

Running with Wolves: autism, anxiety and demand avoidance

Seamo Teare, Inclusion Lead at The Outdoors Group

Neurodiverse children and young people can find indoors space too containing and full of many demands that they find challenging to cope with. Sometimes you need to get outdoors, reconnect with your senses and just be. This workshop is focused on autistic children and young people, anxiety, and demand avoidance. It’s a mix of experiential outdoor tasks, reflective understanding, underpinned by the benefits of and access to play for  autistic children. Seamo will share his extensive experience of working with autistic children, in all its variety, using Forest School and therapeutic skills to reduce demands and build success.

Therapeutic Play: skills to build strong relationships with children

Leone Ellis, Independent Play Therapist

Using the play therapy tools of puppets, art materials, musical instruments, sand tray, and role play Leone will demonstrate how she uses these mediums to build a relationship with a child. Showing how the toys can be used alongside the basic principles of play therapy either inside a playroom or outside in nature, to connect with children in simple yet powerful ways.

Through years of working with children Leone has seen that when children have strong relationships and an attachment to the adults around them, they are much more able to  positively engage, learn, take risks and grow.

The Power of Stories

Neil Martin, Forest School Training Lead for The Outdoors Group

An experienced storyteller with years of experience entertaining and working with both adults and children, in this workshop Neil will be exploring the power of Storytelling and giving examples and suggestions of interactive/inclusive activities that can help to engage and capture the attention of learners.

Increasing Learner Engagement: How To Use Forest School Principles to Manage Behaviour that Challenges

Amanda Leach, Head of the Transitional Learning Programme at The Outdoors Group 

In this workshop Amanda will discuss the ethos and values that underpin the success of forest school for learners who have a tendency to display challenging behaviour and how to translate these values into strategies that can be utilised within the classroom setting. The result for these learners can be an increase in engagement, a more positive sense of self as a learner, and a reduction in incidents within the school environment.

When: Wednesday 6th July 2022, 9am – 5pm


Where: Embercombe (Higher Ashton, Exeter, Devon, EX6 7QQ)


Who: This conference is aimed at anyone working in education and particularly, those working with autistic students and students with SEMH needs. However, we also welcome those working in third sector organisations, social care or interested parents.


Cost:  £180 (early bird until end of March) £220 including lunch (Vegan/Vegetarian) and refreshments


How would you like to pay for your tickets?

To make the conference as accessible as possible, we have two payment options:

  • A 25% deposit at the time of booking: please select this option and pay a deposit by credit/debit card at checkout, under ‘pay now’. The remaining balance will be payable 2 weeks prior to the conference date.
  • By invoice in full. Please select this option and then choose the ‘pay later’ option at checkout and we’ll invoice you.

Bookings are taken on a first come, first served basis. The remaining balance will be due 2 weeks prior to the conference date.

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