Increasing The Capacity: Training For Trainers in Birmingham

On May 23rd and May 24th eighteen professionals and parents specifically invited by their local authorities and by the Early Support regional facilitator landed in Digbeth, Birmingham for Parent Carer Workshop Capacity Building Training.

Early Support Capacity Building trainees are all smiles in Birmingham.

Early Support Capacity Building trainees are all smiles in Birmingham.

The training aims to equip participants to deliver Early Support training directly to parents and carers, and as with all of Early Support’s Capacity Building Training the strategy is to ensure that training is available on local and even on a hyper-local level. An ideal outcome would be for every school and children’s centre for instance to be able to deliver its own training to parents, carers and professionals.

This vision may be some way off, so potential trainers that pass the Capacity Building training are then available to visit communities, organisations and agencies across the region, and country, to deliver training programmes.

For all of the eighteen participants in May’s event the most nerve-wracking aspect of the course was the requirement to deliver a micro-training session to their fellow participants. As is so often the case, delivering presentations to one’s peers, and being observed and assessed on this is far more daunting than delivering to a genuine audience in a real-life training event.

It was at this stage that all of those taking part realised that they were in supportive and positive company; what else would you expect from the Early Support family. Whilst one-to-one feedback provided a useful and honest critique for those hoping to be approved as trainers, participants lifted and energised each other. Everyone left wanting to do and learn more.



Developmental Journal for Children and Young People with Multiple Needs

Developmental Journal PhotoEarly Support have published The Developmental Journal for Children and Young People with Multiple Needs. It been produced to help families and practitioners support the achievements of children whose development is affected by multiple factors that result in challenges to learning. It is based on the concept of a series of ‘Can Do’ cards which help parents and practitioners to observe, record and celebrate children’s and young people’s abilities, and to develop and strengthen these abilities. The Journal supports key working by helping everyone involved with a child to share what they know and discuss how best to work together to support development and learning.

Early Support suggest that before people start to use the Journal, they first read the‘How to Use’ guide.

You can download the Journal in the following five sections:

Part I: Main journal

Part II: PSE

Part III: Communication

Part IV: Physical

Part V: Thinking

Council for Disabled Children appointed as SEN and disability reform partner

The Council for Disabled Children (CDC) has been announced as the SEN and disability reform partner to the Department for Education.

CDC Photo

This new role sees CDC providing direct policy and practice advice to government on the SEN and disability reforms, as outlined in the Children and Families Bill. CDC will be developing information highlighting key aspects of the reform process in order to support the engagement of a broad range of stakeholders. The organisation will also be supporting the disabled children’s sector to develop new and sustainable approaches to adapt to these changes.

CDC’s appointment as reform partner builds on our previous role as Strategic Partner to the Department for Education from March 2011- March 2013. CDC is particularly pleased to be able to continue to support young people’s group EPIC who are also advising government on the reforms, as well as redevelop our successful Innovation and Sustainability programme that supports capacity building across the sector.

Christine Lenehan, CDC Director says:

“The proposed reforms for SEN and disability are a really important step forward for young people and their families. I am really pleased the Council for Disabled Children can continue through all of its partnerships to support them through to implementation.”

Edward Timpson, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families says:

“The Council for Disabled Children has done fantastic work in improving the lives of disabled children and young people with special education needs. We want professionals to work in partnership with parents and young people to improve the much needed support available to these children and their families- an approach embodied by CDC – and I am looking forward to working with them over the coming months.”

The Department for Education statement on this announcement can be found on the DfE website.


Sounds Of Intent

As a practicing musician (and I really do need to practice more), a former Director of a Youth Music Action Zone, and an applied arts practitioner I was interested to learn about the Sounds Of Intent research project.

The ‘Sounds of Intent’ research project was set up in 2002 jointly by the Institute of Education, Roehampton University, and the Royal National Institute of the Blind.

Sounds Of Intent LogoThe aim of Sounds of Intent is to investigate and promote the musical development of children and young people with learning difficulties – although the system can also be used effectively with adults.

The research team has developed a framework of musical development that covers the whole range of ability from profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD) to those with autism, with or without exceptional musical abilities (so-called savants).

The framework is freely available to anyone who wishes to use it, and works on all platforms, though it is particularly well suited to touch-screen technology (such as iPads).

The software enables ideas for promoting children’s engagement with music to be viewed and downloaded, and for individual children to be assessed.

Teachers, therapists, other practitioners and parents can register to assess their children online. Assessments can be made as a one-off or over a period of time. The results can be printed out as numbers or in graphical form.

The research team is grateful for extensive support from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and The Amber Trust.


The Sounds of Intent framework of musical development is based on research with three main elements.

  • Observational data of children with learning difficulties and/or autism experiencing or engaging with music have been gathered by practitioners through video recordings and fieldnotes. Many hundreds of observations have been made, and over 200 are included on this website. These have been analysed for responses, actions or interactions deemed to be representative, exceptional or in any way indicative of attainment or progress.
  • The analysis has been informed by psychological research pertaining to ‘typical’ early musical development, including listening, producing and responding to music and musical sounds from the period of foetal development through to the first years of life.
  • The model is underpinned too by zygonic theory – which seeks to explain how music makes sense to us all, and in particular that mature engagement with music entails the (typically subconscious) attribution of derivation to its constituent sounds, whereby one is felt to generate another or others through imitation. This applies both to structural understanding (through which music ‘makes sense’) as well as aesthetic response (which includes music’s apparent capacity to express or represent emotion). The theory has been used to predict the order in which the musical abilities it implies are likely to evolve in children (irrespective of their learning difficulties).


The PROMISE research, undertaken at the turn of the century that investigated the provision of music in special schools in England, demonstrated that many of those working with children with learning difficulties and autism regard music as an essential ingredient in their lives, both as a worthy focus of attention and source of pleasure in its own right, as well as a means of promoting wider learning and development. However, the musical development of children with complex needs has, until now, been largely uncharted territory.

Some argue that it is inadvisable —if not impossible— to attempt to study and conceptualise the early stages of musical development in a discrete way since engagement with music is almost invariably embedded within broader (non-musical) contexts, occurring as part of other activity. Even in the domain of hearing, music often arrives mixed up with everyday sounds and is frequently encountered as a composite form of communication inextricably linked to words. Clearly, such interdependence is fundamental and must be taken into account. However, since music has the capacity to emerge from the ‘buzzing, blooming’ confusion of early perception as a distinct entity in sound, it should be possible to track its development and emergence through the process of maturation and there is now a considerable body of evidence for musical development in the ‘neurotypical’ population. This evidence should in turn enable those working with children with learning difficulties or autism both to offer more effective support in engaging with music as an activity in its own right, as well as better enabling them to use music as a scaffold to structure other learning and development.

You can find out more about the Sounds Of Intent project and contribute to research via their own web page here.

With thanks to

Adam Ockelford PhD ARAM
Professor of Music
Director, Applied Music Research Centre



Planing For Your Child’s Future: Wills & Trusts

Wills & Trusts Workshop Flyer

Contact A Family are hosting a free workshop for families with disabled children: Planning For The Future – Wills & Trusts. It takes place on Wednesday 12th June 2013, from 10:15 to 12:15. To book your place or to find out more get in touch with either Jan or Angie at Contact A Family. You can call them on 0121 415 4624.

Contact a Family is a national charity.  We are running these events in the West Midlands (although they have recently increased our remit to the East Midlands).  Our office is based in Selly Oak, Birmingham.


Do You Want To Learn About Autism?

Solihull Autistic Spectrum & Information (SASSi) are putting on a talk designed to enlighten and inform about autism. John Simpson, a young man who has Asperger’s Syndrome will be talking about his life.

Learn Abour AutismThe event is absolutely free, and no booking is required, just turn up at Park Hall School in Castle Bromwich at 7:15pm on Wednesday May 22nd.

If you’d like to know more you can contact Jan Bradshaw on 0121 227 6267 or visit the SASSi web site.