Whinfell School

Outdoor learning for young boys with Autism

Therapeutic outdoor learning (TOL) is one of the cornerstones of our curriculum at Cambian Whinfell School. It is a vital element in ‘grounding’ the boys so that they fully engage in the wider programme of education and personal development. TOL involves the use of the outdoors as a central part of our provision. The activities we use may be anything from adventurous ‘outdoor pursuits’ (canoeing, climbing, mountain-biking, caving etc,) through to working on our allotment, on local farms or in the National Park. All activities are very closely linked to each young person’s IDP targets as described in their EHCP.


Sessions are often specifically informed by the therapy team and may be designed to enhance areas such as communication skills, collaboration and expressive language or may focus on developing motor skills, core stability or coordination, for example.

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The school never rushed me into things, but would obviously encourage if they thought it would be good for me. TOL, therapeutic outdoor learning, was something I really didn’t want to do at the start, but after a few weeks I eventually went on a session and loved it. That experience helped me gain trust in the school’s judgement and understanding of me. They clearly just wanted what they thought was best for me. If they knew I wouldn’t benefit from something, they wouldn’t suggest it.


- Student (Read Jack's story in his own words here.)

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Benefits of Therapeutic Outdoor Learning


Research evidence increasingly suggests many benefits of spending time in the natural world for young people’s psychological and physical well-being, including:


 Reduced stress

 Better concentration

 Improved feelings of well-being


 Problem solving skills


 Team work

 Development of social skills


"Students at Cambian Whinfell School enjoy TOL, which in itself is reason enough for participating. The benefits as described above have a positive impact on their engagement with classroom-based learning where they demonstrate improved confidence and better independent learning skills. Through engaging in TOL, young people develop positive relationships with each other and the adults who support them. They enjoy a wide range of adventures which provide a useful collection of shared experiences which they recall and talk about together long after the events have taken place. Engaging in TOL highlights strengths and abilities and ensures that all of the young people at Cambian Whinfell School experience success."

- Dr Joanna Simm EdPsychD PGCE CPsychol AFBPsS

Chartered Educational Psychologist

Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society


Alongside this we recognise the immense psychological benefits for our young people of spending time in the outdoors. It is a great environment for developing risk awareness and, in a carefully supported way, of pushing students out of their comfort zones without unduly raising anxiety.


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