1st Edition

Place, Craft and Neurodiversity Re-imagining Potential through Education at Ruskin Mill

By Aonghus Gordon, Laurence Cox Copyright 2024
    234 Pages 45 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    234 Pages 45 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    For over four decades, Ruskin Mill Trust has worked with young people with special educational needs and behavioural issues who learn traditional crafts and organic farming as part of an integrated curriculum of therapeutic education, overcoming barriers to learning and re-engaging with the wider world. This accessible and inspiring book showcases how an appreciation of place, traditional crafts, farming and transformative education offers a wider route to human well-being for all. The authors outline the different fields of the “Practical Skills Therapeutic Education” method, which includes developing practical skills, learning the ecology of the farm and understanding therapeutic education, holistic care, health and self-leadership.

    Taking the reader on a tour of Ruskin Mill’s many extraordinary provisions across Britain, and going deeper in conversation with its founder, Aonghus Gordon, this book is an outstanding story of creative thinking in an age of narrow focus on classrooms and written examinations, presenting a transformative perspective on education and care. Being grounded in work supporting young people with complex additional needs, it provides a rare insight into the work of one of the world’s leading charities working with neurodiversity.

    With its non-specialist language, Place, Craft and Neurodiversity offers ideas and resources for work in different areas of education and therapy. It will inspire parents, educators and care workers around the globe.

    1. The spirit of place
    2. Practical skills
    3. Ecology of the farm
    4. Therapeutic education
    5. Holistic care
    6. Health and the whole human being
    7. Transformative leadership


    Aonghus Gordon OBE (for cultural heritage and education) is the founder and CEO of Ruskin Mill Trust. He was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Huddersfield for his work.

    Laurence Cox is Professor of Sociology at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth.

    “Under the outstanding leadership of Aonghus Gordon, Ruskin Mill has set a superb example of selfless service in the field of holistic education. This stunningly inspiring and immensely powerful story of Ruskin Mill gives us the highest hope for a better future for humanity.”

    Satish KumarFounder, Schumacher College and Editor Emeritus of ‘Resurgence & Ecologist’


    “This book is a powerful reminder of the importance of the relationship of place to our physical and mental health and our overall sense of wellbeing. The Ruskin Mill approach reminds us to imagine what this can mean for us in practice.”

    Patrick HoldenFounder & CEO, Sustainable Food Trust

    “For over four decades, Ruskin Mill Trust has worked with young people with special educational needs and behavioural issues, through teaching traditional crafts and organic farming, alongside a curriculum of therapeutic education and re-engaging with the wider world. Aonghus Gordon is the founder and CEO of the trust and Laurence Cox is Professor of Sociology at the National University of Ireland. This is a charming and deeply thoughtful book that celebrates the history of Ruskin Mill, its location and the philosophy that underpins its methodology. By bringing young people literally ‘down to earth’ they help them ‘to arrive fully in the physical and interpersonal worlds that have been a challenge for so many of them’.

    The authors describe in detail the role of PSTE (Practical Skills Therapeutic Education) that is made up of seven fields of practice: the spirit of place, practical skills, the ecology of the farm, therapeutic education, holistic care, human health and transformative self-leadership. This inspirational book deserves to be read widely.”

    Mary Mountstephen, SEN Magazine, UK.

    “Reading this book is…not for the faint- hearted. It is dense and intense. I found myself stopping after almost every paragraph, needing time and space to breathe and to let the content resonate and reveal itself more deeply. The reward for persevering was that, at many moments, I felt moved to tears of joy and felt my heart beating faster in response to the clear call to arms to all of us to find our own unique way to contribute to the building of a re-imagined world. As the authors say: “What we do changes our world”. This is the story of social innovation (and societal re- invention) at its re-imagined best.”

     Ros Tennyson, New View Magazine, UK