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Paving the Way

Early intervention for children with learning disabilities whose behaviours challenge

Local CAMHS / Learning Disability teams

Coventry and Warwickshire

christopher in tent

This service supports families in assessing the needs of their child and gaining access to the right interventions. They do this by focussing on the child and providing intensive, one-to-one support.

How does it work?

The specialist Learning Disability team work with children age 0-19; many are referred for their challenging behaviour. Highly skilled specialists from different professions support up to 50 children at one time whose needs cannot be fully met by other services. The team focus on teaching new skills to parents so they can better support the needs of the child and reduce challenging behaviour.

What can the service include?

  • Parent training workshops (covering autism, understanding behaviour, parent well-being and sleep).
  • Stepping Stones Triple P parenting programme, this can be in a group setting or on a one-to-one basis.
  • Individual work with parents, including support after diagnosis.
  • Individual work with children to understand and manage their disabilities.
  • “Families Talk Now” team works in homes and schools to provide early language support through play and learning sessions to children at risk of speech and language delay.

If our son had been taught how to communicate ‘stop’ or ‘finished’ when he was young, he would not have needed to throw his plate across the room at the end of every meal.


What has it achieved?

  • Very few children from Coventry and Warwickshire are placed out of area, unless there are safeguarding issues or external factors.
  • The team offer support for those children in out of area residential placements by regularly reviewing their progress and offering advice to the school about their care and development.
  • Feedback from families who engage with the service is excellent.

Children without learning disabilities display challenging behaviour during the “terrible twos,” but then develop communication and social skills which enable them to get what they want and need. Many children with learning disabilities do not develop these skills and are left with the same needs as other children but are much less able to get them met.

Professor Peter McGill

What are the tips to help develop and sustain a service of this type?

The emotional well-being of parents has a huge effect on family life. By providing a service that focuses on good support for them (for example by providing access to parenting groups) there will be a direct impact on the experiences of the child and the family’s ability to cope.

No child or family’s journey is the same, so there is no standard package of services; each child will have a bespoke service to meet their assessed needs.

Hélène Miles, Children’s Community Learning Disability Team

What are the challenges?

  • Engaging with other services to help them understand and focus on the needs of the child to be successful.
  • Sometimes, families who have complex situations do not want to work with the service or learn new parenting skills.

To read about the problems facing children and young people accessing mental health services download this discussion document..