Taken from a recent press release:
James Owen Thomas, a Tree Council ambassador and also a COP26 One Step Greener ambassador, enables those with complex communication needs to express themselves about the environmental crisis.
James, a North Yorkshire-based young environmentalist, has designed the very first PECS® (picture exchange communication system) symbols to help children and young people with complex communication needs to understand the environmental crisis and begin to communicate their passion for action.
The new symbols will be unveiled for the first time on Friday 8 July 2022 at the Artmaker Symposium and Festival, which will take place between 4.30 pm and 6 pm at the Henshaws Arts and Craft Centre in Knaresborough.
James, a talented artist and a Young Tree Champion Ambassador with The Tree Council, a national environmental charity, feels a deep sense of connection with the natural world. Like many young people his age, he is very concerned about the environment. In 2021 he was chosen by the Prime Minister’s Office to be a One Step Greener Ambassador for COP26.
Through his incredible artwork, James has inspired thousands of Young Tree Champions in schools across the UK to connect and protect nature. James leads on engagement with Special Needs Schools, and learning from his own communication challenges, he decided to create a set of symbols to help others with similar challenges understand and communicate their passion to tackle the crisis.
James said, “I started using PECS when I began school at the age of 4. Teachers used picture exchange to help with my communication and understanding of others.”
“From an early age it was clear that I found pictures very calming. Nature and the environment have always played an important part in my life and this has inspired my own form of art. I hope that my artwork will spread a message to people of the need to protect our environment for a better future. It’s great to now be able to illustrate my talks with these symbols representing climate change.”
When James became aware of the environmental crisis, he realised there was no way for those with complex communication needs to contribute to the conversation and to understand that they too can be a powerful part of the solution. Equality is something that he is passionate about and how it is important that everyone has a voice, the opportunity to understand the crisis and to speak up in their own way. Children are the future and these symbols make all the difference to those who care about the environment and have complex communication needs. James’ goal is to give those that need them the tools to become a Force for Nature.
Richard Pollard, The Tree Council’s National Schools Programme Manager, said: “We are so proud of what James has achieved and thoroughly excited by his work with PECS® symbols. His empathy for others and his drive to help everyone become Forces for Nature like him, no matter what challenges they face, is nothing short of awe-inspiring. We could all learn a thing or two from James.”
Louise Hotchkiss, Operational Director at Pyramid Educational Consultants UK Ltd agreed, adding: “We are thrilled to be able to support James in his work as a Tree Council Ambassador by producing a special edition set of environmental themed symbols. James used PECS® to support his communication when he was younger; it is fantastic that he is now using symbols to aid him in spreading the message about climate change and what everyone can do to prevent further damage to our planet.”
About James Owen Thomas:
James is a student, passionate artist and committed environmentalist based in North Yorkshire. In 2021, he joined The Tree Council’s Young Tree Champion ambassador programme and has since inspired thousands of Young Tree Champions in schools across the UK through his artwork. James uses recycled materials to create vibrant, mosaic-style collages that depict the natural world.
About the Henshaws Artmaker Symposium and Festival:
Artmaker is a two-day event consisting of two elements: a symposium for those who practise and facilitate in the field of disability arts to share experiences and learn from each other, followed by a public festival celebrating the work of artists with disabilities across the arts, to which members of the public and interesting parties will be invited. Find out more at:
About The Tree Council:
The Tree Council is a national charity and membership organisation which brings everyone together with a shared mission to care for trees and our planet’s future. We inspire and empower organisations, the government, communities and individuals with the knowledge and tools to create positive, lasting change at a national and local level. We are helped in our work by thousands of volunteer Tree Wardens and a growing force of Young Tree Champions. Find out more at www.treecouncil.org.uk
About The Tree Council’s Young Tree Champions Programme:
By working together with teachers and partners Learning through Landscape, Speakers Trust, the University of Derby and Eco-schools, the Young Tree Champions Programme aims to inspire children to grow deeper connections with each other, trees and nature, learn more about the importance of trees and share their knowledge. The Young Tree Champions are united in their ambition to help young people connect with trees and nature and inspire them to be #ForcesForNature and take action to tackle the climate and nature crises. Find out more at www.youngtreechampions.org.
About PECS® and Pyramid Educational Consultants:
PECS®(the Picture Exchange Communication System) is a tried-and-tested approach that uses pictures/symbols to develop communication skills in children and adults with a wide range of learning difficulties. Developed in the 1980s, PECS®has received worldwide recognition for focusing on the initiation and social approach elements of communication. PECS® is a registered trademark.
PECS® co-founders Andrew Bondy, PhD and Lori Frost MS, CCC/SLP first established Pyramid Educational Consultants in the US. Pyramid Educational Consultants UK was set up in Brighton in 1998 to support developments in the UK, Europe and internationally.
More information on PECS® & Pyramid Educational Consultants can be found at UK www.pecs-unitedkingdom.com