Category Archives: Parenting Tips

Help with Writing Letterbox

Today Sarah from The Puffin Diaries  shares her experiences and ideas about writing letterbox contact…


I remember having to write my first letterbox contact and feeling a little bit lost. Yes we had been giving some advice by social workers but actually coming to do it, and suddenly sitting in front of a computer screen, it was all a very different matter.  For some letterbox comes as part of a child’s profile, something you need to be prepared to take part in for certain children. For me it never seemed like something I couldn’t do, however as the years have gone on I have struggled at times. It’s great therefore that I have a strategy for doing the letters, a plan to help you through and get the job done.

As I’m writing this post from my own experiences, not as a complete expert if anyone else has any good suggestions please let us know in the comments below.

  • I try and cover a couple of main subject areas, achievements, likes and dislikes, health and any major events.
  • Don’t give too much personal detail, as in names of places or other people in your lives.
  • On the whole I keep it positive.
  • As your children get older ask them if there are things they would like to share in the letters.
  • I try to write at least a page of A4 in double spacing.
  • If you have to write a number of letters, duplicate what you’ve written with slight personal amendments. For example I write to birth mum and grandma, I add a little extra for mum but on the whole the letter is the same.
  • Keep copies of the letters and any pictures you send. I think it’s great for the children to see what you’ve written and it can make a good diary of events through their life.  I keep all ours in a folder.
  • We include photographs in our letterbox. I made a decision early on that I didn’t really like sharing our family pictures. What I do is send copies of school pictures and make sure that they have the shots done with no sweatshirt on, so the school can’t be identified.
  •  I usually ask politely that we receive a response, even though we have only ever received a couple of letters in the early years. The children ask why we don’t get replies and ask that I write that they would like to hear.

It’s not always easy maintaining this contact, especially when you don’t receive replies. However, I believe it’s important for your children to know that you have tried your hardest to keep to an agreement you made. As children get older it is good to include them in the process. I am still happy to write the letters, but do always ask if they want me to write and what they would like to be included. I am aware that some older children do not wish this contact to be continued and I believe this is very much a point of discussion and thought for each individual family.

As I said above, if you have any useful tips of your own I would really like to read them, as I’m sure others would too, so please add in the comments below.

Support, training and therapy glossary

A few weeks ago, we brought you an Adoption Lingo Glossary which has been a really popular post. So moving on a little, but in the same vein, this week we’ve got another glossary, but also a bit of demystification on some support, parenting courses and therapeutic interventions that you might come across. Please note we are not advocating all of these as appropriate strategies, but merely explaining what they might involve, and it’s definitely not an exhaustive list.

Attachment Focussed Counselling/Therapy – Family counselling to help improve attachment issues between children and their carers. Helps bonding, and builds positive images between parent and child.

Attachment Parenting – a term to describe a parenting philosophy used in both birth and adoptive families, used to help promote positive attachments.

Child to parent violence (CPV) – a term to describe domestic violence directed at parent, by child.

Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP) – Developed by Dan Hughes, this is a continuation of PACE that is suitable for day to day parenting. This is a therapy that aims to help children who have suffered trauma, learn – amongst other things – to trust again.

Incredible Years/Webster-Stratton – a parenting program, occasionally offered by schools, developed by Carolyn Webster-Stratton. This behaviour modification technique uses time-outs and reward charts amongst other strategies.

Marschak Intervention Method (MIM) – an assessment, by way of a structured technique to help plan treatment and check suitability of therapies such as Theraplay. Usually videotaped, but not to be used alone in making assessments – best alongside other means of assessment.

Non violent resistance (NVR) – is a psychological approach for overcoming destructive, aggressive, controlling and risk-taking behaviour.

PLACE/PACE – Playfulness, (Love), Acceptance, Curiosity and Empathy. These are core parts of DDP, developed by Dan Hughes. Using these principles, children and parents can communicate more effectively.

Play therapy – a form of counselling or therapy that uses play to help patients communicate.

Self-care – a term to describe looking after oneself. A hot topic in adoption at the moment, self-care can include all manner of activities, all with the aim of caring for yourself.

Sensory Integration Therapy – a clinical approach to treating sensory issues. Usually an assessment is undertaken first, then a personalised programme of support is put in place to help overcome sensory issues.

Speech and language therapy (SALT) – Treatment to improve and treat speech and/or language delay, and can also include eating, drinking and swallowing issues.

Therapeutic Parenting – a term usually used to describe high structure, high nurture parenting.

Theraplay – a therapy to improve communication and attachment. Theraplay uses fun games and nurturing activities, where children and parents are led by the therapist. Such activities create an emotional connection between parent and child.

Triple P – The Positive Parenting Program is a parenting technique to help prevent and treat behavioural and emotional problems in children and teenagers.

User-led support – a term to describe support and help from other people who are using the same services as you, or in the same boat as you i.e The Adoption Social and The Open Nest.

What else have you come across? Other techniques or therapies?
Do please share in the comments below to help others understand what’s out there.

Mobile Phones

Today Sally Donovan shares her wise words on the subject of mobile phones.

mobilesJamie wanted a phone from before way back when.  He finally got one on his eleventh birthday because he was about to start travelling to secondary school courtesy of the not altogether reliable school bus service.  We thought it would be a good insurance policy against being stranded in the middle of nowhere in the middle of winter.  And all his friends had one.  They’d had them since they were in junior school, around the time they started playing Grand Theft Auto and going to bed at ten o’clock and buying cans of Red Bull on their way to school.

The mobile phone was loved and adored from the moment it was unwrapped.  Everyone’s phone numbers were collected; mine, Rob’s, Granny’s, Aunty Alice’s and we were all bombarded with texts.  Some of them even made sense.

Within a few days of the first ten pounds of credit being loaded though, it was gone.  I added another ten pounds.  It disappeared.

To cut a (very) long story short, I eventually worked out he was sending literally hundreds of texts.  (That’s what they do.)  Many of them were split into single words.

Hi Mum





I changed his tariff and bingo, ten pounds lasted a month.

Then we went through a period which I’ll call The Era of Repeated Breakages, Damages and Taking the Piss.  There were multiple incidents involving the washing machine, smashed screens, school confiscations and night time shenanigans.  There was also the resetting of the passcode and the subsequent forgetting of the passcode.  There would be Mr D, pale with frustration, explaining that he had set it to something highly memorable so not to change it again, only for it to be changed again.  Let’s just say me and the young man in the O2 shop are now on first name terms.

Despite all the frustrations there’s been an interesting and unexpected upside to the mobile phone.  It started one morning after a terrible getting off to school.



I don’t know why I say those things

 Then a few days later came

Shit day

 Then, after hours of awful trauma (the sort when things get smashed)

I do love you

 These little text messages represent glimpses into an inner world, glimpses which I might not have got any other way and they were a way for him to reach out.

It works in the other direction too.  If I know he’s had a difficult day at school I might text

Mrs W has told me what happened. Don’t worry we’ll sort it out.  See you when you get home. Mum xx

It seems to prevent the whole walking in through the door in fight mode.

 Last week I texted

I know the last few days have been pretty awful. How about a fresh start and some chocolate biscuits when you get home?

 I got an immediate response


When one’s parenting is already frayed by the usual everyday challenges of life it is tempting to avoid introducing in any more complications.  But there is no getting around it; young people all have mobile phones and digital communications have become central to the way friendships operate.   Not to have one, is to be different from the crowd, and that’s something many of our children struggle with.

I can’t pretend I haven’t at times been driven to distraction by the mobile phone, but Jamie has learnt and matured through the experience and now is a (more or less) responsible phone user.

If you are wavering on the edge of this next step in your child’s life, here are my tips:

  1. Buy them a cheap smart phone. (They all have smart phones.)  If you spend lots of money you will really feel pissed when they drop it (which they will).
  1. Buy a protective case.
  1. Jamie’s first and subsequent phones were half paid for by him and half by us. This gave him a greater sense of pride when he went into the shop, asked for the phone and handed over the money.
  1. We made a big thing about his first phone. There was a sense of celebration and excitement, which matched his state.  We had already set out the rules around phone ownership and usage so the moment wasn’t ruined by us nagging.
  1. Set out clear rules. Our included things like ‘at night, put the phone to charge downstairs so you’re not tempted to use it when you should be asleep’.
  1. Most young people send far more texts than they make phone calls so ask for the correct tarif when you buy the phone.
  1. We live in an area with terrible 3G so we didn’t have to worry too much about what J was accessing on the internet while he was away from home. It’s worth remembering though that smart phones are mini-tablets so if your child is attracted to certain types of websites then they are probably going to access them using their phone.  I know some parents who regularly check their child’s phone and may confiscate it if certain rules have been broken.  We have gone down the confiscation route occasionally and only in response to something significant.
  1. They will make many, many mistakes concerning their phone, as they do in other areas of their lives. They will lose them, break them, bring them out during a lesson and send unwise messages to people whose parents take offence.  My only advice is try not to sweat it but help them learn from it.  If they make tonnes of mistakes then perhaps they aren’t ready for their own phone just yet.
  1. Texting may just open up communication between you and your child, when nothing else can. It can be a great and non-threatening method of repair.  Sometimes a short text tells a thousand words.

Sally Donovan is the author of the moving adoption story No Matter What. To purchase click here.

no matter what


3 Top Tips for Introductions

Today @SuddenlyMummy shares her top tips for Introductions, 

It seems as though the Twitter universe is awash with prospective adopters who are about to be matched, already matched, or contemplating introductions very soon. Congratulations all of you! Many of us have been through it already, and we know that there are myriads of little tips that would have made it all oh so much easier if we’d known them in advance!

So, what are your top tips for managing introductions? Do you have some practical advice, something you wish you’d known, or something you did that worked really well for you?

From a foster carer’s point of view, here are three of my top tips:

movng on1.Bring a holdall or suitcase on the first day of intros for the foster carer to pack all your child/children’s stuff in. It’s heartbreaking to have your child arrive with all their belongings in a bin bag, but amazing how often it happens. I always mention this at first meeting with prospective adopters, but if your foster carer doesn’t, then it might be worth asking.

2.Find out whether it would be ok to provide the foster carer with a memory stick on the first day of intros to load up with photos and videos of your little one. I make photobooks and scrapbooks, but these contain only a fraction of the literally hundreds of pictures I take, and are no good for video clips.

3.I always give prospective adopters my email address at the first meeting – I have never asked SS if this is ok, and I never will because I don’t want to hear a negative answer! If you get the foster carer’s email address and you feel comfortable contacting them, do, do, do email them, even if you don’t really have any questions. Once I receive a prospective adopter’s email, then, importantly, I have their email address too and I can start sending updates to help make the endless wait go by just a little faster.

So, now it’s over to you. If you’ve been through it, what are your top tips for introductions? Share any tips you have in the comments below.

First aid, audio CDs and other things to keep close by in the Summer

Are your children accident prone?
One of mine is. Sometimes he falls over accidentally – he has hypermobility in his ankles so that doesn’t help, but often he hurts himself in the middle of a meltdown, and sometimes he hurts himself on purpose – yes, he’ll throw himself into a pile of stinging nettles, or headbutt a wall repeatedly, and there are the days where he’ll punch something hard, and end up slicing open his knuckles. We’re having therapy at the moment to help, but in the meantime I have to be prepared for many eventualities when at home, or out and about.

So with Summer approaching and days out planned, I thought I’d share the contents of our first First Aid posteraid kit with you…just in case.

At home, I expect most of you have a first aid kit. I have two more – one I keep in the car at all times, and a smaller one that I chuck in the backpack for days out.

  • Tweezers
  • Lanacane for itching/bites
  • Plasters (various sizes)
  • Calpol
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Safety pins
  • Individual square non-stick dressings
  • Bandage
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Triangular Bandage
  • Micropore
  • Small scissors
  • Piriton/Piriteze syrup

I don’t always take Calpol or Piriton, and when I do, sometimes leave them in the car. Bit bulky to carry around with me.

Of course, use your common sense and judgement. If I had other people’s children with me, I’d make sure I had parent’s permission to administer medicines, and check that plasters are OK too.
In the car, I also keep a few bits that make my life easier, and I know then that wherever we are, even if on the spur of the moment, I have what I need:

  • Change of clothes for the children (several pairs of pants for the serial wetter)
  • Suncream
  • Sunhats
  • Clean towel
  • Picnic blanket/doubles up as a warm blanket for in the car
  • Small box with baby wipes, tissues, plastic cutlery, rubbish bag

The boy is now in just a booster seat, with no back, so nowhere to rest his head – he has a beanbag filled ‘pillow’ for leaning on, else he contorts into weird positions to rest, most of which involve the seat belt no longer being where it should be!

And, in the back between the carseats, I keep clipboards with paper and pens, colouring books, some travel games, children’s binoculars, and sticker books to help keep the kids occupied during travelling – even just 10 minute trips.

I also made a CD that has songs on that EVERYONE in our family likes – this helps stop the bickering.
And we also have a couple of story CDs in the car. They’re a bit young for the boy, but sometimes after a long, tiring day out, a little bit of The Gruffalo is just what’s needed.

Travelling with children is a whole other post, so just thinking about days out – what else do you take other than picnics, buckets/spades for the beach, footballs for the park, or bikes for the woods. Any tips?

The Logistics of Containment

Today’s handy tips post comes from Suddenly Mummy – have you got any more tips to add? Leave them in the comments below….

Recently I was speaking to a friend who is about to adopt three children aged three, 20 months and 5 months. I know! We were talking about what equipment she might need and she was feeling pretty confident that she wouldn’t really need a double buggy because the older two can walk pretty well and she could carry the baby in a sling.

Oh no, no, noooo! The decision to have the buggy isn’t about whether your children can walk well enough, it’s about how well you will be able to contain their exuberance when you want to browse in that shop for, say, longer than 20 seconds without losing them. When I had two ambulatory toddlers at once, I relied on the double buggy absolutely or else we would never have got anything done. One was a runner and the other was a flopper – pretty hard to chase the runner when the flopper’s leg bones have suddenly turned to jelly.

So I got to thinking about the various methods I have used to manage very young children of differing ages completely on my own. If you are adopting a young sibling group, or thinking of adding a younger child to your existing family, then I hope these suggestions might be of use to you.

1. Pramsdouble buggy
Even if your older child has long-since got used to freedom from the pram, it might be worth looking at a double buggy, depending on their age/willingness to stay near you/willingness to stop and come when called!  I kept my toddlers in a double buggy for most trips until the oldest was well past three simply so that we could do our errands without massive amounts of stress. The three-year-old was pretty big – poor thing was like a sardine in there! But it saved a lot of unpleasantness for all of us.

2. Wraps and Slings
At the moment I have a newborn and a three-year-old and I’ve been making good use of a borrowed Moby wrap. I’ve never used one before, but I shall be buying one as soon as possible. The wrap is comfortable for baby and conducive to attachment as she can be near me (on me!) any time she needs to. It means that both my hands are free to attend to my three-year-old and, with a bit of careful management, I can even carry them both that way for a short time if need be. I am convinced that the wrap has helped my three-year-old to be less jealous of the new arrival as I’m not constantly carrying her in my arms like a barrier between the two of us – he can still get close when he needs to, and he doesn’t have to wait for me to get his drink, play with him on the floor or whatever. As your child gets older, a Moby wrap can be adapted to a hip hold for a toddler, and it isn’t as tricky to get on and off as it looks!

3. The Bumbo
I was put onto this baby seat by a friend of mine who had twin babies and a toddler. Her identical girls looked so cute propped up there in their bumbos! They can be used with babies who can’t sit independently as long as they can hold their heads steadily, and I used mine until my son was around 8 months old, at which point he learned how to pop himself out of it. I found it so useful for containing a crawling youngster while I got on with other things, and we used the tray that comes with it for our first baby-led weaning experiments. Try before you buy though as some babies don’t fit into them so well. In fact, if you can borrow one or, as I did, get a second-hand one, that’s even better as they are quite pricey and only useful for a few months.

4. Portable booster seats
I like to eat out in cafes and restaurants – a lot! And I like my toddlers to stay in their seats so everyone in the place can enjoy their meals in relative peace. High chair provision can be patchy and if you’re eating at other people’s homes (we do that a lot too – I don’t enjoy cooking!) then a high chair might not be available. I have two fabric, fold-up booster seats with harnesses that we used to take everywhere with us. You can carry them like a bag, and fill the pouch with nappies, spare clothes and a fold-up changing mat if you need to. The label said sponge-clean only, but I put mine through the washing machine and they came up like new. Eventually we ditched our space-grabbing high chairs at home as well and just used the boosters all the time. I’ve used these for children aged from around 7 months (or when they can sit independently for the length of a meal) up to around two.

5. Reins
Various types are available – the traditional reins, the backpack reins and a variety of wrist strap solutions. I’ve tried the traditional sort before without much success to be honest (I found my toddlers always strained to the full extent of the straps, nearly pulling my arms out of the sockets!) but I have other friends who have used similar things to good effect. My friend with twins used wrist straps for car park safety – she would trap the wrist strap of one in a closed car door while getting the other one in the car seat! Sounds undignified but it’s better than turning round to get your other toddler and finding that they’ve disappeared. Another friend who is a childminder uses wrist straps for three toddlers attached to a belt on her waist to negotiate the school run and other quick errands. They’re not for everybody but if you can find a way to make it work for you then it’s got to be worth it.

So, those are some of the devices I’ve come across to help us manage life’s day-to-day challenges with little ones in tow. What are your suggestions?

Asking questions to promote curiosity

This week we have another post from Jemma of Two Mums, Two Kids. Jemma is not only mummy to Squiblet, but also a teacher and in this post is talking about how asking questions can promote curiosity…


As a teacher, questioning is a really powerful tool that is actually really poorly used.  Teachers don’t usually wait long enough for responses and they used closed questions which limit the creativity of the students hey teach.  As parents, we aren’t concerned with a particular curriculum and don’t have 30 children to focus on so can use questioning in a much more exploratory way.

So when Squiblet asks me a question I usually throw it back at her:
“What do you think it is?” Not only is this fascinating as it gives you a real insight into the mind of a two year old, it’s also showing her that I value her ideas and opinions, and I don’t presume to know everything simply because I’m older than her.  Some really cool examples of this have been:
Squiblet: “what’s that?” pointing to the crust on her bread.
Me: “what do you think it is?”
Squiblet: “bread skin”
What a cool idea!

And I would tell her that that was a really cool idea because of x, y, z and then tell her what it was actually called.  But see how she’s using her brain and linking ideas rather than just becoming a vocabulary sponge.

Other cool questions to ask are “how do you think x is feeling?” when you are reading a story.  “Why do you think that is?” “Where do you think they are going?” There are all open questions to inspire imaginative, creative thinking rather than questions like “what colour is that?” which require a one word response and are purely testing knowledge.  This sort of questioning is great on bus journeys or train journeys as you can get really creative talking about the people and things you see.  You just have to try and do it quietly!  Although often when we do it, the passengers like to join in!

Coping with Christmas

Christmas affects us and our children in different ways.

For many, the change in routines at school, the excitement, the number of parties, anxieties about the school play add up and make it difficult for children to manage.
For others, birthdays, Christmas and other celebratory times can bring mixed emotions and feelings – with reminders about past times – good and bad.

As much as we try not to show it, as parents we get stressed about shopping for presents, managing money, inviting the relatives over and cooking that big turkey dinner.

And there are many more reasons for stress around this time.

We wanted to bring you a post that had some tips and advice and we’ve been collating these from our followers, readers and contributors. We recognise that not all of these will work for everyone. You know yourself and your children best, so pick and choose what you think will suit you…and if you have any tips of your own, please leave them in the comments for others to see.

Keep it low-key.  Fewer presents and fewer people will mean less stress, judgement and excitement for everyone. Matt, an adoptive dad.

It’s not for everyone I know elf on the shelf– but we do Elf on the Shelf. We’ve tweaked it so it works for us – the kids look after the elf, rather than the elf spying on the children and reporting to Santa. We find it takes the focus off Christmas day, spreads the build up making it more manageable on a daily basis, and the children are more interested in what the elf is doing rather than arguing/fighting/stressing themselves. Helpfully, the elves also bring activities (crafts usually) for after school and weekend entertainment. Vicki, The Boy’s Behaviour.

Think like snow deep crisp and even!
Deep: stories and candle for each night of advent. Crisp: choosing favourite food meal to share one evening of Christmas. Even – even though it’s Christmas, keep the gentle ‘normal’ routines of bed times and rhythms going. @wonkywarrior, via Twitter.

My son struggles with Christmas, he loves the idea of Christmas but cannot manage the emotional connection that previous Christmas’ have given him so we keep Christmas very low key and short. Christmas decorations and tree go up a couple of days before Christmas and come down soon after so it’s not too drawn out. Donna, an adoptive mum via Facebook.

Structure to the days – presents eked out over time -i.e. Santa Christmas morning, other relatives gifts after lunch – similarly with selection boxes! Limit parties, take long walks, go swimming / biking etc. Take 2 ibuprofen with a large quantity of wine and retire to a dark room til jan 6th. We also take down decorations just after New Year’s Day so that we start the run up to school with a clear (ish) house. Helen, an adoptive mum via Facebook.

Hibernate and wake up in January. @jayandaitch, via Twitter.

Keep it low key…no mad rush to open presents…make plans that work for you, don’t worry about upsetting others. Naomi, via Facebook.

adventNo tree/decs up until they’ve broke up school. Home is Xmas free apart from advent calendars. @purdy2233, via Twitter.

Work hard to reframe advent with different / new experiences and constant narrative. Also use “less is more” approach to events, keep excitement / new stuff low. Instil family rituals -Xmas film/ repeat events. @elhypno, via Twitter.


Making up own traditions is one delight of adoption actually. Mine choose anything they like for breakfast. This Christmas breakfast has been lemon curd on ice cream for button! @wonkywarrior, via Twitter.

We go to park to feed ducks & let off steam between opening pressies! Xmas eve always go for lunch the 4 of us, local posh cafe. Wearing Xmas jumpers! @Purdy2233, via Twitter.

We stagger presents. Family presents when they visit/or we visit. Boys have special jobs. Homemade chocolate truffles by the bucket load (boys love the smell). @3beesandahoney, via Twitter.

Def echo visual diary. And escape route. Son can whisper in my ear if he needs to get out and we seek peace together no matter what the situation. Other than that v low key here. No pressure to join in with games etc. And Santa was busted v early on as too scary. Difficult keeping that a secret from other kids though. @sallydwrites, via Twitter.

And if you need any more tips, then Adoption UK have a Coping with Christmas article on their website.

We’d love to hear how you manage Christmas, or perhaps you’d like to share the things you find especially difficult – as a parent, as an adoptee or as a birth parent. It can be a difficult time for all…

Cultivating the ‘why not’ approach

Today’s post is from Jemma of Two Mums, Two Kids?’ and she’s writing about the differences between adult brain and child-focused brain…

“Why not?” and “Go on then” are phrases Squiblet uses a lot and when I sat down to think about it, I realised why.
“Why not?” Is what I say when my brain says “really?!” And then the child-focused part says “well, what’s the problem…she wants to…it won’t be that much of a pain…usually just a bit of mess, or time!”  So what I come out with is “go on then!”  

I have to say, the “why not?” approach means that Squiblet is very accommodating when I need to rush for some reason, or need her to sit still and be quiet for a while.  I think she gets that most of the time her curiosity and desires will be fulfilled.  I’ll give some examples…

grape caterpillar

This morning Squiblet requested “grapes…on a stick”
Adult brain: “what a faff, can I find the kebab sticks, will she poke her eye out?”
Child focused: “why not?!”
Outcome: very happy Squiblet, no issue whatsoever.


So now when Squiblet wants to do something and I hesitate in my response, she looks up and me with her big brown eyes and says “go on then!” And usually, she’s right!  It’s not about being permissive, it’s about letting her explore the things she wants to explore and not constraining her with our own ideas of extra effort or time.  And slowly but surely, she’s become a girl who went from asking for help with everything, to being a girl who when she wants to reach something says “I just off to go and get my step” and before you know it she’s turning the lights on and off.  Not exactly helpful, but I’d far rather she made efforts to do what she wants to do than sat back and let the world go by without fighting for her rights and exploring it.

So I encourage you all (when you aren’t feeling too tired) to have a “why not?” day.  You’ll find yourself doing some very random things but you might just learn something!

A Functional Assessment.

This post from Lindsay of Grey Street, talks us through a behavioural assessment system she uses in her work. However I feel the overall concept is  good information for all trying to work out why a child behaves in a certain way. For those of you who work with children you may find it a useful tool to consider.

Functional Assessment Pic

In a recent post, Sarah from The Puffin Diaries asked for advice around dealing with aggressive behaviour. One of my suggestions to her was to use a Functional Assessment, which is the purpose of this post; to explain what a Functional Assessment is and how to complete one so that it may be of benefit to some of you reading along.

A Functional Assessment is a tool that is used to help break down a behaviour and give context to family members, professionals and the child involved, when applicable (I say child because that is our focus here, but this process can be used on any age).

Going through a Functional Assessment process is helpful in illustrating what the problem really is, the importance of addressing the behaviour and most critically, it mobilizes people into action with a clear plan.

What often happens, is that a Functional Assessment provides a solid jumping point for everyone involved in the child’s life to get on the same page, begin taking action and start tweaking strategies to support the child.

It’s important to remember that this is just a tool. As much as we may wish for one, it is no magic wand. Figuring out behaviour is much the same as being a detective; you need to look for lots of clues, find the connections between them and take a chance on your conclusion, which may or may not work the first time. Or the second… The Functional Assessment is just a way to find more clues to tricky behaviours.

The Functional Assessment form is simple to use and you’ll find it a very systematic and logical way of analyzing all the contributing factors around a particular behaviour, at it’s simplest, it is just a really good organizational tool.

To get the most out of the form, you will want to assemble all the people involved in the child’s life where the behaviour is occurring.

If it is at home and school than you will want your family and teachers, aides etc. The more input you have, the more accurate your information will be and the better plan you can develop at addressing the behaviour. You also want to always include the child when possible.
In larger groups of people you may want to use flip chart paper and have someone facilitate the process. In smaller groups it may just look like 2 or 3 people huddled around the table and a piece of paper.

The final step is the Safety/Prevention Plan. This helps put people into action by assigning specific people specific tasks to help change and reshape the behaviour.

It offers a script for everyone in the child’s life to work from and continues to keep everybody on the same page and working on the same goals.

Here you can find an example of a FUNCTIONAL ASSESSMENT that I have filled out in red with what you are looking for, asking yourself, child and others as well as with considerations to make in each section. The second form that you can find here FUNCTIONAL ASSESSMENT EXAMPLE is an example of what an actual assessment may look like. Here is a BLANK FUNCTIONAL ASSESSMENT TEMPLATE and here is an example of a SAFETY PREVENTION PLAN

(All the highlighted documents above will be downloaded when you click on them)