Training For Schools

FREE half day training for schools!

TESSA training was excellent. Aim to ensure all schools and teacher training colleges in N. Ireland access this training! – Co. Down teacher. 

Children with a history of trauma and attachment difficulties often struggle to learn and are challenging to teach. Understanding the importance of attachment in child development can help teachers, classroom assistants and other school staff support a child’s emotional regulation, behaviour and learning, resulting in fewer meltdowns, better outcomes, and a calmer school environment.

TESSA offers a FREE half day’s training to schools in attachment and developmental trauma and, if required, strategies and services to support individual children with specific issues. To qualify for the service, schools need to have at least one adopted child on their register, age 12 years or younger. All of the feedback we have received so far from schools indicates that the content of the course applies to many other non-adopted children with emotional and behavioural difficulties.

This outcome agrees with the findings of Baby Bonds, a review of international research into attachment by the Sutton Trust. Baby Bonds found that 40 per cent of young children are insecurely attached. In one US study research concluded that the quality of attachment alone was a stronger predictor of graduating from high school than either IQ or test score.

Attachment security is critical in school success. The good news is that if the adults (parents and teachers) are willing to work together and able to think differently about how we teach and discipline our children we can make school a safe base for learning.



  • Why school can be challenging for adopted and looked after children and young people.
  • How difficulties such as poor concentration, low motivation, anxiety, disengagement, aggression, defiance, and school refusal can be understood in terms of trauma and attachment difficulties.
  • Simple effective strategies to help parents, carers, teachers and learning support assistants manage behaviour and support learning.FOR FURTHER INFORMATION
    TEL: 028 9077 5211

The TESSA training aims to help schools:

  • accept that some children have specific educational needs related to attachment and trauma.
  • recognise the effects of developmental trauma in school.
  • explore practical support strategies.


The Just Right State Programme ©

Sensory and attachment training for parent and child

The Just Right State Programme© (JRSp), developed by occupational therapist and attachment counsellor Éadaoin Bhreathnach, is based on the idea that young children need caretaking that includes calming and challenging sensory motor experiences in order to develop well. Adopted children miss out on many of these experiences and the resulting sensory difficulties can cause emotional and behavioural problems at home and in school.

The aim of JRSp is to teach parents and children how to make everyday experiences and routines sensory based so the child can learn to self-regulate in challenging situations. The benefits include: better physical, emotional and social skills development and improved academic performance.

Evaluation of JRSp in Devon showed:

  • Reduced antisocial behaviour
  • Increased ability to engage with peers
  • Marked increase in ability to self regulate


The Children’s Programme
(six 90-minute sessions)

JRSP uses sensory activities and foods to help children learn to regulate their emotional states and behaviour. It also uses cartoon characters called The Scared Gang, who represent the different survival patterns of behaviour and help children understand how the gang react to situations and what each of them does to achieve the Just-Right State. The goal of the programme is to enable children to become more emotionally aware of themselves and others, to learn simple tools to self regulate and achieve the just right state, at home, school and in other social settings.

Six parent and child sessions aim to help children become more emotionally aware of themselves and others and to learn simple ways to self-regulate using foods and sensory activities. Children also get to meet a set of cartoon characters called The Scared Gang to help them understand survival patterns, identify their own survival pattern and learn how they can achieve the “Just-Right State”.

TESSA funds this programme but each family needs to buy a therapy ball for the parent and the child. You also need a Scared Gang pack. The pack costs £50 and is available at the start of the programme.

The course takes a maximum of six parents and six children and is aimed at children aged six-12 years.


Parent and Children Together

Therapeutic one-to-one family intervention service

We are excited to be able to offer family support from an experienced and highly-skilled therapeutic practitioner.

Lynda McGill is a senior social worker in therapeutic family support. She can work with you and your children to increase connection and stability in your family by providing one-to-one work and family sessions involving:

  • Therapeutic parenting support including attachment building and direct work with children around adjustment to adoption.
  • Guidance on using the Dan Hughes PLACE model for enhancing parent and child attunement.
  • Theraplay (attachment-based play)
  • Talking through the Tough Stuff, a narrative approach to helping children and families resolve difficult issues in adoption, perhaps around contact, life-story work, death or crisis in the family.
  • A Sensory Attachment Integration approach using Just Right State programme techniques to help parents and children improve self and co-regulation.
  • An exploration of the issues and difficulties around blocked care.


If you worry about the past, fret about the future and struggle to cope with the present mindfulness could be your key to a happier, more stress-free life.

Adoption brings many blessings, but the stress of parenting can leave us burned out, anxious, and blind to the joys of family life. Developing mindfulness can help us to stay regulated and positive so that we respond rationally rather than react ‘mindlessly’ to life’s many challenges.

Mindful parenting lets us attune more effectively to our children, taming potentially overwhelming emotions and resulting in happier, better regulated families.

Mindfulness practitioners teach tools to improve focus, reduce stress and increase creativity and compassion.  Becoming aware of your emotions, allows you to observe negative thought patterns with friendly curiosity and without judgment. Minfully focusing on our experience as it unfolds can stop us “living in our heads” and slow the constant whirring of thoughts that drive up blood pressure, trigger anxiety, create sleep problems, and contribute to a range of stress-related health problems and fractured relationships. By calmly observing our thoughts, feelings and sensations moment by moment we become better at managing them. With practice we can train ourselves to notice when our thoughts are taking over, and realise that thoughts are simply ‘mental events’, not reality, they don’t have to control us.

Is it for me?
Learning mindfulness usually involves being part of a group that meets once a week for three, six or possibly eight sessions. To practise you sit quietly in an upright position, or you may also lie down, close your eyes, follow the directions of the facilitator and focus on your breath and the sensations around you and inside your body. It is recommended that you practise at home for at least 10-15 minutes a day. The benefits accrue over time, but regular practice is essential if you want them to last.

A form of mindfulness called Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy MBCT, developed by Professor Mark Williams and colleagues has been shown to be as effective as antidepressants, and can reduce the recurrence rate of depression by 40-50 per cent.

“I’ve not yet completed my mindfulness course and already I see benefits. I’m more relaxed so the children are too.  Mindfulness is helping me to enjoy parenting. We all laugh more since I started mindfulness.”

Therapeutic Parenting Courses

“When our little people are overwhelmed by BIG emotions it’s our job to share our calm, not join their chaos”

LR Knost

We offer training in therapeutic parenting because learning to parent therapeutically is the single most important thing you can do to help your adopted child. Support and therapeutic services can provide help at critical times and with specific aspects of adoption, but it is the everyday interventions of parents, teachers and child carers that have the most power to transform a child’s life.

Much of traditional parenting assumes that a child feels safe at home and trusts his parents and their motives to care for and discipline him. This style of parenting also assumes that children learn from consequences, are able to do a lot for themselves, and accept their parents’ values, ideals, and goals. For adopted children these assumptions are wrong. Our children have had experiences that young children should never have to go through. They have felt scared and alone, been abandoned, hurt or hungry early in life and they’ve had no choice but to adapt to survive these experiences.

When our children come to live with us, these adaptations show up as difficult behaviours that make it hard for us to care for them. This is especially challenging when a child appears not to need us and won’t allow us to love them. This is why we have to parent therapeutically.


Therapeutic parenting is an intensive type of parenting based on high structure, high nurture, empathy and acceptance. It is aimed at connecting with a traumatised child so they can feel safe enough to begin to heal and attach.

The type of training we offer at TESSA draws on research from many sources, principally Dr Dan Hughes, Dan Siegel, Bryan Post, Bruce Perry, and Bessel van der Kolk as well as experienced therapeutic parents such as Caroline Archer and Christine Gordon. It is a four-day course based on Adoption UK’s Parenting Our Children course. There are various courses currently offering training in therapeutic parenting but the Parenting Our Children course (formerly It’s a Piece of Cake) was one of the first in the UK. Developed by adoptive parents 17 years ago, it has since been updated in line with current research and is still delivered by adoptive parents.


Tips for therapeutic parents

  • Don’t take your child’s behaviour personally – it’s not about you, it’s about what happened to them.
  • Take care of yourself and your relationships
  • Treat yourself with the same patience and care you show your child.
  • Remember that a traumatised child’s behaviours are based in fear or shame, even though they look like anger, aggression, and rejection.
  • Remaining regulated and positive is the key to being in charge of your home.
  • If your child’s behaviour triggers emotional issues for you get counselling for yourself (and for your marriage/relationship).
  • Look to other adoptive parents for support.
  • Give yourself a break.