Mental Health; the use of ‘Books Beyond Words’ for promoting Emotional Well Being in children with Learning Disabilities

Mental Health ; the use of Books Beyond Words for promoting Emotional Well Being in children with Learning Disabilities

Books Beyond Words - Thumbnail article image Annie Grant looks at how book clubs for older readers with learning disabilities are promoting good mental health and wellbeing







Supporting Girls on the Autism Spectrum

Supporting girls on the autism spectrum.

Barry Carpenter and Jo Egerton

Nasen, the UK’s leading organisation supporting those who work with or care for children and young people with special and additional educational needs and disabilities (SEND), has launched a free miniguide to supporting girls with autism spectrum conditions/disorder (ASC/ASD).

Girls and Autism: Flying under the radar, is a 20-page full-colour guide designed to alert busy teachers to the hidden struggles of girls with ASC/ASD. Misunderstanding of their support needs, it suggests, may lead to unnecessary school exclusion and mental health disorders.

Behaviours stereotypically associated with autism are now widely recognised by most teachers – the high-intensity interests (e.g. trains, mechanisms, dinosaurs) and the self-regulatory and anxiety-associated behaviours (e.g. flapping, jumping, resonating noises, meltdowns). However, now researchers are warning that these behaviours are not equally indicative of ASC/ASD in both boys and girls.

‘Ironically, it seems we, as professionals, have been over-focused on the detail and not seen the bigger picture,’ says co-author Jo Egerton. ‘It is not the object of interest that is key, but the extreme intensity and duration of interest that sets girls and boys with autism apart from their typically developing peers.’

A young girl with autism may, for example, collect hundreds of identical pictures of her favourite pop star or develop an unusually encyclopaedic knowledge of fashion, Egerton says.

‘Rather than externalising their ASC behaviours, it seems that girls are more likely than their male peers to suppress them, to assiduously study and copy peers’ socially acceptable behaviours, and to adopt more internalised and invisible relief from stress (e.g. self-harm, eating disorders).’

This means that their ASC/ASD is likely to go unnoticed, she adds, unless their school knows how girls with autism ‘fly under the radar’.

The Girls and Autism miniguide – which comes out of the UK’s National Association of Head Teachers’ Autism and Girls Forum chaired by Professor Barry Carpenter CBE – is a first step for teachers in becoming more informed. It introduces the debate around autism and gender; identifies key issues for girls with ASC/ASD; provides practical school-based support strategies; shares family, professional and academic perspectives; and signposts further reading.

‘Our challenge in schools is to evolve a curriculum and pedagogy that are responsive to our new understanding of girls with ASC/ASD and their specific needs,’ Professor Carpenter says. ‘This will involve a process of inquiry, to investigate and explore, for and with the girls, how best their needs can be met.’

You can download your free copy of Girls and Autism: Flying under the radar here.

For the National Conference on Girls on the Autism Spectrum ; The BIG Shout, to be held in London on 27th January 2017.please click here

Book Review – ‘Building Positive Thinking Habits’ by Tina Rae

£29.99 169pp A4 photocopiable paperback ISBN 978-1-906531-76-8

Buckingham; Hinton House 

Published 2016

At this time of significant focus and concern about the mental health needs of young people in Britain (as evidenced by the Heads Together campaign – led by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge), practical resources that empower teachers to create dynamic curriculum responses are very welcome. Yet again, Tina Rae provides us with such a resource.

In a well-scripted Introduction, Dr Rae scaffolds some key constructs, which build the evidence-base for the subsequent teaching and learning strategies offered in this text. I was particularly taken with her section on ‘The Importance of Positive Emotions.’ Pulling on the seminal work of Seligman, she offers a tried interpretation, in the classroom context, of hope and optimism, flow and happy memories.

Whilst the first and last may have obvious interpretations, it is the concept of ‘flow’ that struck me as having pedagogical relevance to classroom dynamics. Flow is defined as ‘a sense of deep engagement in an activity during which time passes extremely quickly and the individual is able to work at full capacity.’ Engagement is a major platform for building responsive pedagogy in this 21st century (Carpenter et al, 2015), and here the antidote of full authentic engagement in challenging, meaningful learning is pitched against anxiety arising from feelings of disenfranchisement in an alien curriculum.

“Young people are frequently flooded with anxious and negative thoughts and doubts “ states, Tina Rae, and rightly shows how this can lead to a rapid disintegration of their emotional well-being. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), has become a popular therapy for assisting in the restructuring of thought processes, by examining the interface between emotions and our behaviours. Schools will have known of children receiving CBT to promote positive mental health, but it was something carried out by the Psychologist or CAMHS worker. There was no curriculum context for this intervention, and the key tenets were never fully articulated in terms of teaching and learning.

Through a range of photocopiable resources and activities ‘Building Positive Thinking Habits’ goes on to do just that! It confronts the negativity, particularly around self image, that pervades the teenage years of so many young people. Bombarded by destructive negative thoughts and influences from so many angles, a rapid erosion in the mental health state can quickly occur, and direct interventions are crucial. This is where activities such as NATS and PATS can be useful and relevant. How can the power of Positive Automatic Thoughts (PATS) overcome Negative Automatic Thoughts (NATS)?

All of the activities outlined would be of great value to the teachers (as part of tutor time), to SENCOs (for designing specific interventions) and for Teaching Assistants who are often delegated to implement those interventions. Ultimately the ‘Solutions-Focussed Mind’ is the key to increasing self-confidence and resilience in young people. Whilst CBT is only one approach currently available, at long last we have a resource book that explains to teachers what it is, and how it can be useful in schools as a valid, evidence-based intervention, which has a distinctive contribution to make for all Young People.

Professor Barry Carpenter, CBE, Ph.D.

International Educational Consultant                                                                    September 2016

Tina Rae Book Thumbnail - 'Building Positive Thinking Habits'

Mental Health – Who are the children?

In this briefing paper, Barry Carpenter looks at who are the children whose mental health are particularly vulnerable, and discusses how the creation of a curriculum around Emotional Well Being, may reduce this significant barrier to achievement. The paper also looks at Mental Health as a pervasive Complex Need in children of all abilities.

Click the thumbnail image above to open and view the paper

Girls on the Autism Spectrum; The Big Shout

27 January 2017, London

There is shared concern among parents, schools, families and professionals about the vulnerability of girls on the Autistic Spectrum. What is emerging is that the presentation of autism in girls is different to boys; yet many of our diagnostic and therapeutic approaches, and interventions in education and psychology, are based on research conducted with predominantly male populations. This conference brings together school leaders, teachers, health professionals, parents and carers with high profile speakers and experts, including:

  • Carrie Grant, TV vocal coach and campaigner who will give a parent’s perspective.
  • Francesca Happé, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience and Director of the MRC Social, Genetic & Developmental Psychiatry Centre at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London. Her research focuses on strengths and difficulties in autism spectrum conditions. She is co-founder (with Dr Rona Tutt OBE and Professor Barry Carpenter CBE) of the National Forum for Neuroscience and Special Education.

The conference will give delegates an insight of the experiences of girls on the Autism Spectrum; and prepare a ‘Call for Action’ to highlight future areas for development. to see full details and to book please click here:

Conference fees
Early Bird rate for all registrations – £99
(Please note that Early Bird rates are applicable to the first 50 applications received.)
NAHT Member rate – £125
Non-member rate – £150
Parent/Carer rate – £125.

Understanding, Emotions and Books Beyond Words: A neuroscience perspective

These companion articles from the SEND journal , written by Barry Carpenter, Jo Egerton and Stas’ Samagala, are relevant to schools and settings in this time of evolving educational approaches and interventions to support children and young people’s mental health and emotional well being. As the title suggests current thinking for neuroscience is applied to the rich range of narrative based resources in the ‘Beyond Words’ series of books and on line materials.

Click the thumbnails below to open each article.

Understanding, Emotions and Books Beyond Words: A Neuroscience Perspective - Page 12 SEND Magazine

Understanding, Emotions and Books Beyond Words: A Neuroscience Perspective - Page 20 SEND Magazine 2016


The Engagement Framework for Learning; how did it start ?

In this new article Professor Carpenter, former Director of the DfE funded  Project on Children with Complex Learning Difficulties and Disabilities, discusses what new teaching and learning approaches are required to truly meet the needs of the children. Research has shown that Engagement is the key to successful learning for these children, and, indeed, any child with Special Needs.
The article describes how the Engagement Framework for Learning (including the Profile and Scale) evolved, how it was extensively trialled  across the UK and internationally, and how is commends itself as a personalised assessment approach that celebrates children’s learning, and empowers the quality of teaching. Prof Barry Carpenter SEND May 2016.
Please click the thumbnail below to open and view the full document:
Resisting Engagement Cover

The Legislative Context ; a free on line module explaining the new Code of Practice on SEND, and allied legislation.

Following the work of its Complex Needs Review Group , Chaired by Professor Barry Carpenter,  nasen is delighted to announce the publication of the latest free legislative updates to the Complex Needs training materials.

This comprehensive online update sets out the most pressing legal responsibilities above and beyond the Children and Families Act 2014.

Whether you’re a SENCO, teacher, teaching assistant, governor or manager, these slide-based online materials are a rich resource designed with you in mind.

Access the key information that you’ll need for your school and ensure that you meet all of the necessary legal requirements for your setting.