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An Article by an Educational Psychologist. The Value of Interests.

My name is Janet Myers and I’m an Educational Psychologist working as part of the Portsmouth City Council Educational Psychology Team. My work includes working with pre-schools, schools, families and colleagues from additional Services to explore, identify and meet the special educational needs of children and young people in Portsmouth.

Through my work as an EP, I have met and worked with a large number of families and colleagues in different parts of the country over the years, and I often find myself reflecting on young children I have worked with in the past, who will now have reached adulthood. I am curious about how their early skills and interests may have evolved over time. I wonder which aspects of early life and learning experiences have been important and valued by them and their families, perhaps shaping their development into adulthood.

I was therefore really excited to be asked to write an article for Portsmouth Parent Voice, to explore these ideas through conversation with local Portsmouth residents, Barbara and Pierre. Pierre, who is an adult with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, and his mum, Barbara, describe how Pierre’s early interests have indeed shaped his development in many ways. I hope you enjoy reading about their family journey, as their story has been a true inspiration to me, which will continue to influence my understanding of the issues we often think about as we work together. 

As Educational Psychologists, being curious and open to the thinking and ideas of others, has always been a central part of our work with children, young people, their families and the other people who are part of their lives. Through talking to Pierre and Barbara, I have become even more aware of how each person is unique, and how important it is to notice, think about and value each individual as they progress on their journey through life. I have been reminded that a small comment made by a parent about their child’s behaviour at home, or a brief observation about a young person’s response to an activity in pre-school, school or further education, can often help us to gain a better understanding of their interests, skills, needs, learning styles and most importantly, what leads to pleasure and fulfilment for the young people, and those who share their lives.

Parent Voice Article Part One: The Value of Interests.

We often hear, and say, “It’s good to have interests”. Interests can evolve into hobbies, lead to the formation of friendships and even lead us into successful and rewarding careers. We are sometimes intrigued about others’ hobbies and jobs, asking, “How did you get into that?”

As an educational psychologist, I ask questions and carry out activities with pre-school and school age children, to discover their interests as part of exploring and identifying their skills and special educational needs. Some of the young people I meet are not able to communicate verbally when I meet them, and so I like to ask their families, and those working with them, to describe their interests to me.

Why is this important? Firstly, every child and young person is unique, and exploring their unique interests helps us to learn about what is giving them pleasure and stimulation, satisfaction and in some cases, comfort. I like to consider what they like to play with and how; what they like and choose to read or talk about; and which activities they like to carry out independently, with their families and friends. This helps us to gain an insight into their knowledge and skills, how they learn, and elements of learning they may find challenging.

The importance of family insights into the origins and nature of a young person’s interests, and their behaviour and interactions around their interests is an invaluable part of such exploration.

Some of the children I meet love to talk in detail about dinosaurs, planets or train mechanics, and perhaps list features of these topics we may never have heard of, sometimes in a very repetitive manner. This may lead us to wonder if perhaps this impressive, established knowledge and behaviour enables the child to feel a sense of certainty and comfort in what may otherwise seem to be a confusing world to that child. This behaviour may also lead us to wonder if that child experiences satisfaction, achievement, pride and self-confidence due to his or her ability to share this specific knowledge.

Gaining an insight into a young person’s interests can often lead to the development of helpful interventions which incorporate their unique interests to enable them to engage in activities to develop, for example, language and communication skills, and learning and social interaction skills. Such interventions are more likely to appeal to our young people, and stimulate their engagement, both at home and in education settings.

Recognition of specific areas of interest is also important in terms of drawing attention to the value of providing focused opportunities for young people to continue to develop and apply these unique interests and associated skills as they progress through life. We would all of course like our young people to continue to experience pleasure and to reach their potential.

To return to my point about the origin and development of specific interests, next time I would like to talk about a young man who, as his mum describes, experienced severe communication and behaviour difficulties as a young child, and who has a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Pierre is now an engaging 24 year old graduate of the University of Portsmouth, graduating this year with a First Class Honours degree in Computer and Gaming Technology. Pierre has also gained an award for his work at University for the development of his own business, and he has recently embarked on an exciting new career in his chosen field. I think you will enjoy reading about his journey, which is enabling him to apply his unique set of early interests to live his professional and social life to the full.

Natalie’s Blog Part 2

Hello everyone,

It’s been a busy couple of months here at PPV, along with many Parent Carers I have been searching for secondary school placements and completing my little boys EHCP (Educational, Health and Care Plan) annual review, which has been quite tough, so my supporters have definitely been called upon lately.

However we did get to celebrate my little boys birthday at Harry Potter world, who are ‘hidden disability’ aware, we used the Sunflower Lanyard and they were incredibly helpful, when questions were asked in regards to food allergies the staff were on hand to provide the information we needed.

So back to me, the PPV manager….

Portsmouth Parent Voice and our lovely parent reps have been busy attending meetings across the SEND strategy and working in Co-Production with education, health and early years on many new projects.

PPV also attended an SE19 meeting in London, where we got to share some of the good work we are doing across the city, we were able to share this with other forums and local authorities across the south east region.

We have recently held training events on Co- production, SEN Champions and SENDIASS attend PPV to provide a workshop on annual reviews,  these were all well attended and as an outcome provided much knowledge and confidence to many parent carers.

We have held 2 coffee mornings the first with local councillors from across the city and a CAMHS ‘You Said We Did’, both were well attended and many parent carers voices were listened to, CAMHs were able to feedback what they have done as a result of parent carer feedback and a PPV survey.

CAMHs then had the opportunity to chat to parents to see what is going well and what improvements could be made.

In this months newsletter we have a lovely article written by Janet Myers an educational psychologist about the life of a young person with autism and his family, the article highlights some incredible achievements and reminds us that life can get tough at times and that when we focus on what our children and young people can do well they really do start to shine.

Portsmouth Parent voice will be taking a break over the Christmas period so from the Friday 20th December 2019 –  Monday 6th January 2020 our office will be closed, if you call or email please remember we have a 3 day call back and reply policy this will take effect from the 6th of January for emails and calls received over the Christmas period.

So from all the staff at PPV 


Portsmouth Penguins Disability Swimming Sessions

Non Violent Resistance Support

Is your child violent? Let us help…

Moriah Family Support Group

Moriah Family Support Group confidentially supports all families of children and young ones (0-25) with any special educational needs, particularly those with English as an additional language

Portsmouth Local Offer

Portsmouth is a needs led city and any provision or support should be provided in line with the needs of the child or young person and is not dependent on any formal diagnosis.

This Ordinarily Available Provision document has been co-produced with SENCOs following extensive consultation with head teachers and partners.  It contains information on provision that the local authority expects to be made available for Children and Young People with Special Educational Needs and/or disabilities.

Please click here to be directed to the Local Offer website.

Portsmouth SENDIASS

If you are experiencing issues with school attendance, bulling, school placements, EHCPs and other educational related issues the following link could be useful.

Please remember the importance of keeping communication open with your educational setting and please seek professional advice and support before removing your child/ young person from their educational setting

Please click here to be directed to the SENDIASS website.

Natalie’s Blog

Well it’s been 6 months since I took over the role of Portsmouth Parent Voice Manager and what a busy few months they’ve been.

I have been finding my feet and have brought a few changes along the way, one of which was being setting up a PPV Steering Group for our wonderful parent reps.

We have had a great visit from solicitor Victoria Federico, who came to speak to parent carers on their legal rights and legal background of EHCPs and in June PPV celebrated their 10th Birthday with a coffee morning and a visit from the Moriah Family Support Group.

PPV played a huge part in the recent Local Area SEND Inspection in July, many of our parent reps attended workshops, feeding back those important parent carer views.

We had a great turn out for the open parent event and PPVs co-production group Shaping Better Futures Together (SBFT) had the opportunity to show how they work in co-production with other organisations and this didn’t go un noticed by the inspectors.

So a big thank you to all who got involved, your voices were heard!

Of course you may of notice we took a break over the summer,  my working hours are term time only as I have children at home, I had the opportunity to experience the Sainsbury’s Active Kids Camp with my 10 year old who has autism, ADHD and a Language Disorder, this gave me 3 days a week respite, the staff really supported my son and helped him be part of his community and gave me a well-deserved rest.

They are limited to the level of needs they can support and can’t provide 1-1 support but made a conscious effect to read his individual behaviour plan and my little dude loved his time there, so here’s a thumbs up to Sainsbury’s please keep up this good practise as we need more holiday camps like this in Portsmouth.

Currently you may have heard the Portsmouth SEND Local Offer is being redesigned. PPV, alongside Dynamite, have had the opportunity to be part of this from the start  and will keep you updated on the progress and relaunch dates.

We had the pleasure of Steve Rolls from Portsmouth Mediation Service joining us for a coffee morning in preparation for our Restorative training session in October, which will be followed by an EHCP annual review workshop with SENDIASS .

You may have noticed a CAMHs coffee morning in December in our events section on Facebook, yes that’s right I said CAMHs! We will be holding a feedback coffee morning so a member of the CAMHs team can feedback what they are doing in reply to your concerns.

We will be sending out a survey in October to gather your experiences of the service which PPV will then take back to the CAMHs quarterly review meeting, so keep an eye out and make sure you share your experiences.

Please remember to follow us on social media (links to our Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are at the bottom of the page) and if you check out Instagram you will get to see what we get up to at PPV. Also if you’re interested in getting involved with PPV please check out our website for details.

I look forward to sharing another update in the next newsletter, so please enjoy reading and if you have any questions please use PPV’s contact details and get in touch.