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Behaviour is Language - Virtual International Conference

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This conference shares understanding, knowledge and practice developed from current and ongoing research. The range of speakers are recognised for their work particularly with families, carers, support workers and professionals who support children and young people that struggle to communicate verbally including children with SEND, or history of high levels of childhood adversity.

The organisation of the conference recognises not everyone is able to attend for a whole day but would very much like to take part. The conference enables all those participating to select the sessions relevant to them as individual sessions or as a whole day.

This is a not for profit event supported by University of Sunderland Interdisciplinary Research Network partnership with ACE Network North East, all ticket sales will be used to provide resource loan packs to schools in the North East containing resilience-building resources and alternative interventions for working with and supporting children and young people.

Confirmed speakers, sessions and times:


Professor Andy McDonnell, CEO Studio III:  

The originator of the Low Arousal Approach.  Andy is a leading clinical psychologist in the field of managing behaviour.  He argues that the eradication of restraint and seclusion is a reasonable goal in our lifetimes.  Author of  ‘the reflective journey’ a practical guide to supporting distressed individuals using a low arousal approach and providing accredited training to schools and related organisations. 

11am or 3pm - Managing behaviour - a ‘Low Arousal’ approach - This session discusses the Low Arousal Approach and how this approach could eradicate the use of restrictive practices in care settings, Professor Andrew McDonnell shares his practical approaches to creating a restraint and seclusion free culture. This presentation will contain a combination of academic theories and practical examples in ways to not only reduce, but eliminate restraint and seclusion for young people and adults in care settings including schools


Gareth D Morewood, Education Advisor Studio III: 

Gareth has previously worked for 25 years in U.K. schools; including working as a SENCo (Special Educational Needs Coordinator) for more than 17 years. Gareth has extensive ‘front-line’ experience supporting schools, families and working directly with young people in the U.K. and abroad; most recently Chile, Dubai, Portugal, Scandinavia and Ireland which has led to a significant body of published works, films and resources. He is highly regarded both nationally and internationally

9am or 1pm: Autism, Education & Emotional Regulation - This session draws upon the acclaimed Saturation Model (Morewood et al, 2011) as part of a whole-school approach to supporting autistic students in mainstream schools, fused with emotional regulation and low arousal approaches developed by Studio III (McDonnell & Deveau, 2018).


Colin Lofthouse CEO of SMART Multi-Academy Trust: 

Colin is a Trustee of Schools North East a charity whose mission it is to support and champion all schools in the North East. He sits on the Healthy MindEd Commission which is researching the causes and impact of mental health issues for pupils.  He is an experienced school improvement partner, headteacher mentor and published author through his research into leadership coaching, curriculum development and educational blogs.

9am - Giving children a voice: Supporting pupil Mental Wellbeing - This session will reflect on the extensive research project promoting pupil mental health in schools and how the Pupil Voice project promoted communication across a wide range of settings between pupils and staff improving relationships and understanding.


Jane Pickthall - North Tyneside Virtual School Headteacher: 

A nationally recognised professional Jane has developed the virtual school team to meet the needs of pupils with a history of adversity.  She recently represented the National Virtual School as Chair of the National Association of Virtual School Headteachers at the Department of Education Committee enquiries and participated in a number of research projects. This has enabled her to draw on a wide range of research to provide timely and supportive systems for schools and across education provision.

9am - Developing a Trauma-Informed approach across an authority- the role of schools and virtual schools - This session will draw upon a wide range of research to provide timely and supportive systems for schools and across education provision. 


Mr Al Coates MBE: CEL&T: 

Al is an experienced Social Worker who has extensive knowledge of as an Independent Social Worker and as a Social Work Practice Educator and Trainer. As a member of the Department for Education's Expert Advisory Group on Adoption and Special Guardian, he has undertaken to help support families recognising these children and young people can present with a wide range of behaviours. He runs the popular blogging site at alcoates.co.uk; for which he was awarded First4Adoptions blogger of the year in 2015 and 2016. He also co-founded and produces the Adoption and Fostering Podcast. In recognition of his commitment and work, he was awarded his MBE in the New Years Honours list, January 2018.

11am – Childhood challenging, violent or aggressive behaviour (CCVAB) lessons from research - This session will draw on previous and current research findings providing insight into what CCVAB means and recognising this is not always poor parenting and is often more than ‘Child to Parent’ or ‘Adolescent to Parent’ violence

1pm or 3pm - Effective interventions- rethinking a one size fits all approach: supporting children with CCVAB - This session will discuss the range of approaches available and how this can often be a postcode lottery offer rather than the one most suitable for the child and family including the limitations of adopting a one size fits all approach that often leaves children unsupported and misunderstood.


Ms Sarah Martin- Denham, Senior Lecturer University of Sunderland:

Lead Author of the SENCO Handbook. Sarah is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, a Vice-Chancellor Teaching Fellow and a Convenor of the Interdisciplinary Research Network for developing knowledge, understanding and approaches of the impact of exposure to adverse childhood experiences. She has developed a particular interest in school exclusion and adverse childhood experiences.

9am - The language of school exclusion - This session shares findings of a research project and the barriers and enablers to mainstream schooling that impact on inclusion and the implications for provision and practice of children at risk of exclusion.

1pm - More than a score - Adversities not included in the ACE questionnaire that impact on people’s lives - findings from research. With growing concern over the widespread use of the ACE Questionnaire top 10 themes this research highlights the limitations of using the Ace questionnaire as a diagnostic tool and why far more consideration needs to be given to how adversity can impact on children’s lives in both the short and long term.


Ms Ruth Whiteside: Director of CEL&T and Licensed EQ profiler in CEL&T:  

Children Emotional Language and Thinking to provide training focusing on how children communicate through their behaviour and how our responses send messages to children individually, collectively and as a society. Ruth is an accredited Brain Profiler for Six Seconds delivering their programmes for CEL&T who are the preferred partner of this international organisation

1pm or 3pm - Emotional Intelligence and supporting children with challenging violent and aggressive behaviour. This session the role of Emotional Intelligence for promoting effective communication and understanding and Neurological developments at this time for seeing ‘beyond the behaviour’ when working with children or young people and their families.


Dr Wendy Thorley, founded CEL&T:

Children's Emotional Language and Thinking as well as ACE Network North East. Dr Thorley has extensive experience in education including: primary, further and higher education as well as leading organisational CPD training . She has experience as Academic leadership, lecturer, programme management and e-learning. She is highly regarded across voluntary and statutory organisations and has published a range of papers, completed national and regional consultancy roles as well as a invited keynote speaker contributions. She was awarded the National Teaching Fellowship by the Higher Education Academy for her teaching excellence.

9am and repeated at 1pm with Ruth Whiteside - The Neurology of Children with CCVAB- understanding why the volcano erupts: This session will explore neurological development and how this can help professionals to see ‘beyond the behaviour’ when working with children or young people by appreciating how our own reactions can help increase rather decrease communication breakdown and misunderstanding.




- One session £7.50

- Two sessions £10

- Three sessions £12.50

- Four sessions £15




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