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Every Child Can Learn

Every Child Can Learn
Using learning tools and play to help children with Developmental Delay

April 2008 | 232 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd
Includes CD-Rom


Based on the authors' own clinical practice and extensive experience in the field, this book is a creative and flexible aid to helping children with learning difficulties.


Their accessible and positive approach, 'Functional Learning', focuses on helping children learn, children's potential, and what they can rather than cannot do. It is based on the purposeful 'doing' by the young child and can be carried out at home, school or the therapy room with either parents, teacher or therapist. The approach, which is cross-cultural, can be extended to all aspects of the child's life, and enables them to participate in everyday activities at home and school.


Fully illustrated, the book draws extensively on the authors' many years of practical work and offers techniques and activities used to help children develop their learning with a focus on:


- Development of Learning Tools

- Working with parents

- Language and communication

- Behaviour and emotional development

- Integration of learning into everyday life


The book includes a CD-Rom/DVD with printable material for making cards and worksheets, plus illustrative video material.


This book is suitable for anyone working with or caring for a child with learning difficulties, or with autistic spectrum disorders; for SEN teachers and SENCOs, early years training, teacher training and child development courses, as well as parents.

Recommended video resources:

Learning and Communication

Understanding Understanding




Historical Background
Play and Learning
Functional Learning
The Placing Tool
The Piling Tool
The Banging and the Drawing Tool
The Pairing Tool
The Matching Tool
The Sorting Tool
The Sequencing Tool
The Brick-Building Tool
Intersectional Sorting
Language and Communication
Therapeutic Work with Parents
Feeding and Eating in Young Children with Developmental Delay
A Class in a Residential Unit
Functional Learning and Inclusion in Mainstream Education
International Links

'I worked for ten years in a mainstream primary school, the first four years as a special needs part-time teacher and then six years as as a SENCO/ pastoral support/ family support, also part-time. The school had high numbers of special needs children and many troubled children. Many children were over-social in the way they behaved. During my time at the school I introduced Functional Learning. I gathered all the materials - boxes and containers galore and interesting contents, bricks and trays, sticks, etc. - and tried to set up a work space either in a classroom or in the special needs room. Teaching Assistants who worked with me also did some of this work, although it was on a very small scale. We found it worked particularly well with children with learning difficulties who talked all the time and children with Asperger syndrome. They loved the chance to be quiet and made good progress. I introduced the book, Every Child Can Learn, to a Teaching Assistant who was working with a child who had been diagnosed with Asperger, ADHD and speech and language problems as well as having a parent with similar problems. At first I did the work myself and the TA continued it, eventually planning it herself. I have no doubt this approach works although it could sometimes be frustrating trying to find a suitable work area in a busy mainstream school. The classrooms are packed with children, wall displays, equipment, interactive whiteboards, computer areas etc. and in most rooms we struggled to find a suitable space. Interestingly in the classrooms where I did get a little area the children were able to work and focus their attention in the non-social Functional Learning lesson with no trouble at all! I think the sheer numbers of children with complex special needs who have now been integrated into mainstream schools, as well as an increasing number of children with serious emotional and even mental health problems, is making it very challenging in some primary schools. The school I have worked in most recently does not have one class now where there are not serious behavioural problems, and the staff are under immense pressure. I am so pleased to have Every Child Can Learn and hope some staff and parents in all schools will develop this approach to helping children with their learning because it does work!
Gwen Macmichael, Teacher

'Autistic children have gaps in their understanding of the world because they may get hung up on one particular skill, or direct energies usually used to learn into hyperactivity.

Functional Learning helps to fill those gaps so they can discover the pleasure of new experiences and learning, without fear' - 'Learning difficulties made a whole lot easier' from Hampstead & Highgate Express

'This is a fascinating book...I would certainly recommend it to those who are endeavouring to establish some learning, problem-solving and communication skills with children for whom they can be all too elusive' - Support for Learning

'The authors' firm belief is that every child can learn and this book shares the practical work, techniques and activities which the writers have employed to enable children to learn, communicate and play...An absorbing read' - SNIP

'I thought this book was extremely sensitive, thoughtful and respectful to children and their families, and in many ways speaks a similar language to one with which we are familiar as child psychotherapists' - Association of Child Psychotherapists Bulletin

'I found the book and CD-ROM informative, accessible and very positive…a useful working manual for anyone working in an early years setting where there is the time and commitment from staff and family to see the programme through' - Special

'Full of therapeutic wisdom. I particularly like the absolutely specific detail of how to help the child...[and] the idea of building up a child's repertoire and helping them sequence their actions and perception. I shall be sharing [the book] with my colleagues' - Stephen Scott, Professor of Child Health and Behaviour, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, UK, and Director of Research, National Academy for Parenting Practitioners

'This book is clearly written, jargon-free and well illustrated, including a CD. The authors describe in detail the treatment of Developmental Delay in young children, using the principles of Functional Learning. Parents are included from the outset to learn the techniques to continue treatment at home. The methods can also be used in educational settings. It is full of practical and fundamental knowledge and is highly recommended' - Professor Lionel Hersov, Professor of Psychiatry and Paediatrics

'Every Child Can Learn provides a wonderfully clear account of how children with a developmental delay can be helped to gain communication and problem-solving skills by exploring and using a range of 'learning tools'. The book and accompanying CD-Rom are highly unusual in being immensely practical, well adapted to what children like to do, and deliberately focused on learning through success. The authors' approach is based on a wealth of experience over many years. It is highly distinctive in having a well thought-through conceptual approach that involves a recognition of the need to tailor interventions to individual needs and particular family circumstances. Most of all, it provides a way to help children move on step by step as they progress in their development. Anyone working with children who experience developmental difficulties will learn an immense amount from this splendid guidebook' - Professor Sir Michael Rutter, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London

'Thank goodness there is now a clear and practical guide to this groundbreaking technique. The unique teaching approach described in this book helps children - even those with severe learning difficulties - to learn how to be ready to learn, spontaneously, from all their daily experiences. It is so well presented and explained here that I'm determined to recommend it to all the professionals and parents I meet. The originality of the approach is startling and the results fascinating both for students and teachers. This is the ultimate way to teach open ended thinking and problem solving skills to children whose emotional and developmental difficulties make it hard for them to learn' - Richard Brooks, Advanced Practitioner, Oxfordshire Service for Autism

This handsomely produced volume is a practical distillation of work on child development over four decades...The book is very detailed, with a careful definition of terms and thorough discussion of the steps to be expected as the use of each Tool for Learning becomes more fluent and more sophisticated.

The book is very practical. Detailed examples of activities which have been found to work and the apparatus most easily acquired or simply made to support them, is given in each chapter. More detail is on the included CD, where colour photographs illustrate how apparatus can be selected to support the acquisition of more than one of the learning tools.

The book will be helpful reading for teachers working with children with delayed development, whether or not they fully adopt the approach. It will provide much good material for more than one teachers’ training session.

Improvement Magazine

Very good book and the cd rom with tools included is an excellent guide and help. Gives very good guidance on aiding those working with children with developmental delay. Case studies included also beneficial

Ms Sinead Hickey
Childcare Dept, National College of Buisness Administration
January 12, 2014

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