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Paving the Way

Early intervention for children with learning disabilities whose behaviours challenge

Local CAMHS / Learning Disability teams

East Sussex


The service provides a range of support to families who have a child age 0-19 with moderate to severe learning disabilities who have complex needs and are exhibiting behaviours described as challenging, where parents or other agencies are struggling to cope.

It’s so important that parents and siblings have positive experiences with the child with learning disabilities. I don’t have fear anymore or worry about how other people feel about my child being different. I was so isolated. If I had known earlier about I feel I can talk about my problems and be understood, I have never experienced this before.


What are the aims?

  • To work preventatively from onset of challenging behaviour using a range of psychological and therapeutic interventions
  • To work in partnership with families & other agencies to keep children living with their families & communities
  • To use strength based approaches to build resilience and coping
  • To reduce isolation and improve well-being of families

Working with team around my child to investigate and advise on how to manage behaviour


How does it work?

  • Service includes staff from Clinical Psychology, Speech and Language Therapy, Family Support Workers, Psychiatry and Nursing and works closely with other people who know the child.
  • Families are referred to the service if their children are displaying behaviours which pose a risk to themselves or others, if they are at risk of school/home breakdown; if parents are struggling to cope or if there are Child Protection concerns.

Total support when needed, subtle, caring, professional, steering family in the right direction.

  • Support includes
    • Home based work with parents
    • Working with others – Parent Consultation Sessions & facilitating Multi-Agency meetings bringing together everyone involved to focus on understanding & managing behaviour
    • Detailed assessments of behaviour & communication
    • Prescribing & monitoring medication
    • Group work for parents – PBS group; “All about you” group – building resilience and wellbeing
    • Alternative therapeutic groups: Woodlands Family Days for whole families – supporting & enabling families to share a positive experience together; Rythmix music groups for children/YP & parents.

How is it commissioned and funded?

The service is part of the Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust CAMHS services. It is commissioned and funded by the local authority to provide a direct service to those with the most complex needs; to provide training and consultation to other agencies working with C/YP with LD.

I am happy inside, makes me feel I can deal with whatever awaits me, it makes me feel like Amy’s mum and not her carer.


What has it achieved?

  • Originally set up in 1998 as a small pilot service. Initial project evaluating benefits resulted in service expansion & now covers whole county.
  • Evaluation in 2014 showed after one year CAMHS LD/FISS successfully reduced problematic behaviours, increased parents sense of coping and ability to manage the behaviour.
  • 2015 won SPT staff awards for Woodlands project and Team partnership work.

Ability to work closely with all the family to get the best perspective of the needs of everyone


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

  • Having shared value base – Partnership working with parents & all other agencies
  • Range of skills & interventions
  • To use “taster” workshops to help families understand what is being offered
  • Always build on strengths, celebrate all successes

May we as a family thank you for your ongoing invaluable support you give to us. The last year and a half has been very trying but you have been a pillar(s) to lean on and made situation bearable… You have certainly made a difference and helped me cope in difficult times.


To read about the problems facing children and young people accessing mental health services… [tbc]

Felt like we were on a new frontier.
Nice to see Mum and Dad happy.