Category Archives: Special Educational Needs: A Parent’s Guide

Top Five Tips for Better Bedtimes from Victoria Dawson #specialneeds #sleep

Victoria Dawson

Victoria Dawson is a sleep practitioner and special educational needs teacher. She is the founder of the Children’s Sleep Charity and has written sleep-training materials for Scope. She writes in the national press and presents at conferences across the UK.

Sleep and Your Special Needs Child, co-written by Dawson and Antonia Chitty, is out this month. Here, Dawson discusses her top tips for a better bedtime for your children and yourself.

If bedtimes are a battle it can leave you exhausted every evening. When your children have special needs it can seem difficult to build a good bedtime routine. Here are five tips to help you from sleep practitioner Victoria Dawson.

1. Start by writing your routine down so you know exactly what’s going to happen when. The act of writing can make you look at what you do at bedtime, and which parts of it are working and which are not.

2. Consider using a visual timetable so that your child knows what is coming next. Take photos or find drawings of your bedtime activities: a meal, bath time, teeth brushing, story time etc.

3. Fine motor skill activities are a great way of promoting calm in the run up to bedtime. Take time to help your child complete a jigsaw, for example. This is a great alternative to watching television and helps the brain wind down.

4. Try using music in the bedtime routine to promote calmness. Using the same calming tune every night can provide an auditory cue that it is bedtime. There are sound recordings specifically designed for children’s bedtime, some with just music, other with guided relaxation exercises and stories.

5. Seek advice from your child’s therapists. Your OT can provide sensory advice, the physio can help you with information on positioning and the speech therapist on promoting understanding around bedtime.

Sleep and Your Special Needs Child by Antonia Chitty and Victoria Dawson is available to order now with a limited time only discount.

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New series of books for parents of #specialneedschildren #parenting

handprint smallThe news series of books from Robert Hale for parents of children with special needs. What other topics should we cover? Victoria Dawson, Founder of The Children’s Sleep Charity, and I have been working in the fields of disabilities and special needs for a long time … I won’t say how long … and we’ve brought together our own interests with expert views and case studies and tips from parents in what we hope will be a practical series for every parent who is at the end of their tether, as well as those looking simply to make life better for the family.  Read about the books, below, and let us know what you think.

sleep 3d Sleep and Your Special Needs Child

Sleep is vital for children’s well-being. Without enough sleep their health, mood, behaviour and learning ability may all be impaired. Research shows that children with additional needs are more likely to have sleep disorders than typically developing children, and that without intervention these problems will persist. Victoria Dawson is a successful sleep practitioner and founder of the Children’s Sleep Charity. Here, together with health writer Antonia Chitty, she shares her own experiences, those of other sleep experts and those of parents. While most parents of babies expect sleep problems to resolve within months, parents of children with special needs can find them lasting into adolescence and beyond. This is a pressing issue for parents, as disturbed sleep can cause depression, relationship problems and a weakening of the immune system. The majority of parents receive little or no help with sleep problems, and few families have access to sleep practitioners. This book addresses sleep problems using a highly successful behavioural and cognitive approach to sleep management, and is the first book to explain these approaches in detail. The practical advice contained is invaluable for parents who want to feel more in control and more confident about tackling sleep issues in a way that is appropriate for their child.

food 3d Food and Your Special Needs Child

Children with special needs and disabilities may have accompanying issues with food and eating. This practical guide for parents will help navigate this often difficult terrain. In typically developing children, eating problems are relatively common, affecting 20 – 40% of children. In children with special educational needs and disabilities, eating problems can be even more common; they can be severe and can take many different forms. Anyone who has a child between the ages of two and nineteen with an additional need and a food or eating difficulty will find this book useful. Discover the origins of how we eat, and get practical tips from experts, plus read what has worked for other parents in similar situations.


journey 3dAre you worried that there is something wrong with your child? Many parents have concerns about their child’s development, and going through the process of assessment and diagnosis can be stressful. If you believe that there is something wrong with your child, but have yet to get a diagnosis, this book is for you. The Journey Through Assessment will help you through the period of uncertainty when you have to negotiate healthcare and education services. Compiled after extensive research and interviews with parents, it will help you navigate the processes necessary to gain access to the care that your child needs. Discover what might happen during the process, and get practical tips from experts, plus read what has worked for other parents in similar situations so you feel less stressed, less isolated and are more able to help your child on the journey through assessment.  

Sleep stories needed


Antonia Chitty 2011 Grey 200 x 300

If you’re a parent of a child with a disability or additional need, I need your bedtime stories! Can you tell me what your child needs at bedtime, what helps them get to sleep, what keeps them awake. What special features in the bedroom are a must have – blackout blinds, weighted blankets – tell me what helps you and your child.Many thanks


Does your child have sleep problems and special needs or a disability?

Does your child with special needs also have sleep issues? I’m looking for parents willing to share their experiences for a new book on sleep I’m writing with Victoria Dawson.

This book covers children aged 2-19 rather than babies.

Get in touch via or the contact form, and I’ll send you a few questions to answer. Please share this if you know anyone who might be interested.

Children with Special Needs and Food – Your Help Needed

Eating and Special Needs

Children with special needs may have accompanying issues with food and eating.  Antonia Chitty and Victoria Dawson are currently researching this area in order to produce a book for parents to guide them through issues around eating.  As part of the research they are keen to hear from parents who have had difficulties with their child’s eating.  The aim of this book is to provide parents with practical support, warn them of avoidable problems and offer emotional support at what can be a difficult time.  Your co-operation in completing this questionnaire would be very much appreciated. Please email your answers to antonia @

About Your Child

  • Does your child have a diagnosis?


  • What exactly are their eating issues?


  • When did the eating issues first begin?


  • How are the eating issues managed?


  • How has the eating issue affected their lives eg school, social life etc?


  • How has the eating issue impacted on your life as a parent?


  • Do they have any food allergies if so how do you manage this?

Professional Help

  • Which professionals have been involved in your child’s case?
  • Have you had enough support?


Practical Tips for other parents

  • How did you find out information about eating issues?
  • Were you ever in denial about your child’s needs?  If so can you explain how this felt and what made things change?
  • What tips can you pass on to help other parents around managing eating issues?
  • What do you wish you’d known about eating issues that you know now?

If you wish to fill this in anonymously then you do not need to complete the details below.  If however you would like us to keep in touch with you and you do not mind us contacting you for further information, please provide your contact details






We would like to use your comments in the book. All responses will be anonymous and names will be changed.  Any information that you provide that is printed will be checked with you first for accuracy via email.  Please indicate below if we can use your comments and experiences to help other parents:


Yes, you may use my comments anonymously

No, I don’t want to be quoted.

Can you help: children with special needs and food

I’ve been asked by one of my publishers to look into the possibilities for a book about food and children with special needs. I want to scope out what this book might cover, and whether this is actually the book that parents of kids with special needs really need, or if there is another area that is more of an issue. So, can you help me by answering a couple of questions:

  1. If your child has special needs, what are the biggest issues for you right now?
  2. And is food/eating an issue? What problems have you experienced, what has helped?

Please write your comments below or use the Family Friendly Working contact form. And if you can pass this on to other parents or share this link on your blog, please do!

Review: Special Educational Needs: A Parent’s Guide

Need2Know Books are doing a sterling job sending out “Special Educational Needs: A Parent’s Guide” to relevant charities and organisations. It is really useful to hear what people who are working in SEN think about the book … and so far the reviews have been great.

The latest review reads, “Whatever your situation, “Special Educational Needs: A Parent’s Guide” will help you through your child’s diagnosis and through the complex systems you might encounter.”

It continues, “If you are a parent or carer of a child with special educational needs you will know the feeling of uncertainty as to where to go for help. Or perhaps you are a teacher or other professional working with special educational needs children and would like to have clearer facts about the subject. This practical guide spells out clearly how to deal with the problems that special educational needs can present. For families at the end of their tether because of sleep deprivation, or worn down by battles to get the proper support at school for their special needs child, or who maybe facing the need to adapt their home, this guide is invaluable.”

You can buy the book from

Victoria Dawson and I have another couple of books in the pipeline, one for parents of children with special educational needs, focussing on looking after your relationship, and the other focussing on sleep problems. I hope that these will be as well received as the first one.

Cerebra Reviews “Special Educational Needs: A Parent’s Guide”

Special Educational Needs: A Parent’s Guide has just been reviewed ver favourably in Cerebra’s newsletter.

“This is a very straightforward book with easy-to-follow information and advice for parents. The many areas covered include speech problems, family life, housing and finance.

“Each chapter explains the issues and provides tick box lists to help apply it to your own child’s situation. Photocopyable charts help to deal with issues such as behaviour.

“Every chapter is clear, to the point, and very helpful. An appendix lists charities, support groups and government help. A great resource.”

Review for SEN Guide

Reviews are starting to come in for Special Educational Needs: A Parent’s Guide. This one is from TotztoTeens
Special Eductional Needs: A Parents Guide by Antonia Chitty & Victoria Dawson
ISBN: 978-1-86144-057-0 £8.99

As many as one in five children may at some time need extra help with their education, but does this mean they have Special Educational Needs?
Using expert advice and the latest information, this book brings together the facts on Special Educational Needs, looking in detail at the different types of additional needs and how parents and carers can cope with it in daily life.

Find out which professionals can help, how to get through the ‘system’ and gain support, how to handle behavioural difficulties at home and school, and how to get the best education for your child’s needs.

Whether you are worried about your child’s development or work with children and want to know more about the subject, this book will guide you through helping a child with special educational needs.

Totz2teens Member Review: Wondering if your child has special educational needs is a complicated and difficult time for any parents. Reading this book was very helpful. It is clearly written and explains some of the different difficulties that children could be facing. Even eyesight problems are covered within this book. The way the book is written is so helpful as it is easy to understand and to pick it up as necessary. Totally a useful book and happy to recommend it.

Totz2teens Member Rating: 5/5