Neurodiversity in Conservation: Learning New Skills Gives Young Adults Confidence

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TCV works with a variety of organisations to encourage people of all backgrounds to get involved in their local environment.

Working with those who are neurodiverse presents unique opportunities to accommodate everyone, using reasonable adjustments. This could be seen as a challenge by some, but we are always looking for ways to improve and to include everyone in accessing nature.

Below is a look at how TCV in South Yorkshire works with a specialist college to provide young people with a rewarding experience.

Neurodiverse students doing TCV task

Charity and college partnership

TCV works in partnership with Harrison College, a specialist employability and education provider based in Doncaster for post-16-year-old students. Many of the students possess a range of neuro-diversity differences and associated social difficulties. The college is a fantastic example of how, with a little ‘outside the box’ thinking and perseverance, young people with additional needs can be supported to gain the skills and confidence to enter mainstream employment.

TCV supports the students in not only learning real, hands-on, conservation skills in TCV South Yorkshire’s Community Woodlands, but also how to plan, risk assess and manage projects on TCV sites safely.

It’s vital to change engagement practices and session structure to accommodate individuals on the ASD spectrum, to ensure students felt included and participated in sessions. This has since led to a greater understanding of the communication, social, and sensory needs of not just the students, but also volunteer participants in general.

The students have worked really hard and have made real improvements to the areas where they have worked, so thank you to everyone involved – this has been an incredibly rewarding project, and we hope to be able to continue to support the college moving forward, promote our belief in providing opportunities for neuro-diverse individuals, and through theses experiences, improve our own practices and understanding of the challenges these individuals face in accessing the wider community‘.

– Jonathan Holliday, TCV Team Leader

Through the project, TCV was also able to create an opportunity for one of the students to join TCV on an internship. The student has been further supported to improve their practical skills, knowledge, and confidence in a supportive environment.

They have achieved so much during the internship, both in terms of skills and learning, but perhaps more importantly in relation to their confidence, social skills and becoming part of a team – they have engaged with all aspects of the team’s day to day work, as well as joining in with team building days, meals together and general office banter. TCV’s South Yorkshire team found it incredibly rewarding to look back on the social and communication difficulties the student was were experiencing at the start of the project and to see how much progress they have made.

‘You know they are making good progress when they start teasing the staff who like football about their respective teams’ poor results’!

– Jonathan Holliday, TCV Team Leader

Mike Peebles, Chief Commercial Officer at Harrison College said:

‘We had a visit today from a business. I sat with a group of six students, three of the six students are currently working with TCV on a Tuesday. The business was Doncaster Council, and the team members work in the Product Department. They maintain houses and buildings, doing all the trade jobs.

Some way through the presentation from the council, one student asked, “Have you heard of TCV”?

No, why? was the answer.

The student replied, “Because they do some fantastic work in Doncaster, they look after many beautiful areas. I’ve been working with them for weeks and love it”.

The conversation went on for about 5 minutes, in which all three students commented on the work they were doing with TCV.

Two of the three students didn’t say anything else throughout the entire session.

We say to the students that these experiences will give them something they can relate to a potential employer.

This is the opportunity you have given the students.’

Keep up to date with the latest news and activities from The Conservation Volunteers by following us on TwitterFacebookLinkedIn and Instagram. You can also sign up to receive TCV’s Greenzine newsletter for more ways to get involved.

TCV Volunteers collage

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