Thursday, January 01, 2015


This blog is one of several which provides information on various aspects of the CUSTTAD approach 

Friday, September 14, 2012


In a structured and dedicated setting CUSTTAD combines the use of sand trays and a procedure called Talk and Draw to support children’s creative intentions and their efforts to make sense of what is happening in their lives. The Limited Aims of CUSTTAD is an abbreviated version of a presentation which was originally made to an invited group of Head Teachers in Glasgow Scotland.

Any proceeds from the sale of this small book will go to the Custtad fund

The text of The Limited Aims can also be accessed on the blog at

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Potter's Pink is the recommended colour for the walls of a Custtad facility 
It is available as a Dulux Heritage Paint

This subtle pink was derived from oxides that produced a variety of shades similar in appearance to dry lime plaster. It was used by fresco painters and similar colours are found in the interior schemes of Robert Adam

Sunday, January 01, 2012



The name of this particular dish is CUSTTAD. It has been tried and tested over a period of twenty years and has been enjoyed by most of the children who have tasted it – although I know of two who did not like it at all

During that time we have encountered people who, with little knowledge of the dish, have introduced several of their own ingredients to unpleasant effect

We hope therefore that our efforts to produce a desirable dish using the best ingredients we could find are trusted and understood

If made well Custtad is intended to provide sufficient servings for a whole school population

   The unequivocal top down support of those with overall responsibility for the Special Needs provision within an Education Authority

2    An enthusiastic and committed Head Teacher who has a genuine appreciation of the potential benefits of having a Custtad facility in their school.

    A fully trained Custtad worker - also committed to the approach but with an additional understanding, having completed the training program.

   A room of approximately 3 metres by 4 metres, painted Potter’s Pink and fully resourced with the materials required for the effective use of the approach.

   A staff group, including office staff and classroom assistants, with a comprehensive knowledge of the Custtad approach, what it aims to achieve and ideally some conviction that it will make an effective contribution to the school.

With the above in place the required first steps are:

    Identify which children will most benefit from spending some time in a Custtad facility

    The Head Teacher acts as the MAIN REFERRER but it is expected that he/she will confer with the Custtad Worker before making the final selection. The potential referrals could come from anyone who knows the child e.g. a parent/carer, a class teacher or a school assistant concerned about a child's behaviour. An offer to a child to use the room might also stem from knowing that there has been a significantly upsetting experience in their life e.g. the death of a family member

   The parents/carers will be contacted to suggest that their child might benefit from using the facility and to obtain their agreement

    If the parents/carers are uncertain about giving their agreement it might be suggested that they have a look at the facility. If still no agreement is reached, using Custtad would be abandoned, the parents/carers’ refusal would be factored into the appraisal of the child’s difficulties and an alternative approach would be sought

10 If agreement is reached, arrangements would be made to inform the child about the facility. The setting for this and who would be present would be carefully considered. The Head Teacher and/or the Custtad Worker are likely to be there: the parents/carers may not be

11 If the child accepts the invitation it is important to let them know when their first session might take place. With some children being able to provide an immediate visit might be the best option. With others a period of waiting might be acceptable but it should not be too long

12 If the child is uncertain DO NOT FORCE THE ISSUE but if appropriate suggest they might like to have a look at the room

13 Even if the child agrees only to have a look but does not wish to make use of the room, this is a step in the desired direction. The child now knows about the room, the control is with them and they may choose to use it on some future occasion. As with a categorical refusal (see the next step) be sure to indicate how they might bring that about

14  If the child categorically refuses the invitation, as before, DO NOT FORCE THE ISSUE. But do (as above) indicate how to arrange a visit to the facility further down the line

Assuming a child has accepted the invitation the next steps are:

15 Make the necessary arrangements for the sessions to take place

16 We advise beginning with an initial batch of three sessions. Depending on the child’s response and on any issues raised, three sessions may not be needed. Alternatively another batch of three might be indicated

Detailed instructions on what happens in the Custtad room are provided during the training program and are not being covered here 

17 As regards any information or feedback from the sessions which requires to be shared or acted upon; this would go directly to the Head Teacher in their role as the MAIN RECEIVER. It is the Head Teacher who would be responsible for bringing any concerns to the attention of other members of staff, to parents/carers and/or other agencies. There might also be situations in which the child's concerns relate to their experience in class and the Head Teacher would be best placed to deal with this

18 A CUSTTAD worker would, on no account, be sharing any information arising from a session with anyone other than the Head Teacher

19 A CUSTTAD worker would not be discussing anything arising from a session without having the child's agreement on this - note the use of the word agreement and NOT permission. However, the child is informed at the first session that in certain circumstances i.e. if the worker feels the child or anyone they know is NOT SAFE, it is the worker’s responsibility to let others know

20 A CUSTTAD worker would also be aiming to involve the child, whenever possible, in devising and deciding on what strategies might be adopted to address any concerns they might have

21 The thrust of this approach is towards the prompt sharing of information so that anything requiring attention can be addressed as soon as possible. This is different from some approaches where the child worker may be holding information for a significant period of time


1 A child NEVER EVER goes to the room as a bribe, an enticement, a reward or when they are actively upset- either sadly or more on the wild side

2  Children should feel as comfortable about accepting an invitation to use a Custtad facility as they would be about declining it

3  We use the word unsettled when referring to children who might find the Custtad room useful but this definition is intended to encompass those who are causing concern in a quiet way as well as those whose upset is manifested in more obstreperous behaviour

4  When a Head Teacher is selecting possible trainees we advise that two of the most valuable attributes are
·        being practical about the lay out and ordering of the materials and the cleaning of surfaces
·        having what we describe as a backwall. That is someone who conveys to a child that they mean what they say and that they are capable of firmly following up on that

5  Not everyone takes to this approach or gets to be comfortable using it. This is not a reflection on their abilities which in other areas of their work with children may be excellent. Custtad is just not everybody's cup of tea

6  The person who takes on the work with the child should NOT be working with the parents/carers. However good a parent/carer might be, a child sometimes feels unable or unwilling to share their concerns with them. In these circumstances it can be helpful to the child if there is no confusion in their mind about the Custtad worker being there for them

  When a child arrives at the door of the room either to have a look at what’s inside or having decided to try it out, they should see before them a well ordered well resourced environment. The words we use when presenting the room to children are that it has been specially set up for them - and this is what they should sense about it - even if they don't fancy using what they see

During training the Custtad worker is required to work on a Plan of Action in consultation with those members of staff responsible for the overall organization and management of the School. Included would be the procedures for the presentation of CUSTTAD to parents, children and colleagues, the arrangements for the management of the facility within the school and the protocols required for negotiating with external agencies. How these are decided upon will reflect a particular school’s organization but it has to be within certain criteria


CUSTTAD could be responded to positively by most of the children in a primary school but it has been shown to be specially appreciated and enjoyed by those who have not had anything like it before. And based on some of the comments we have had from children who have found it a particularly desirable dish, they are glad to have been offered it

Once it is made available in a school the Head Teacher and the staff will gradually get to know those who will benefit most from it – and it isn’t always the most obvious candidates

As for the signs that it is of benefit, these would be the usual ones of children being more settled in class, getting along better with their class mates, not being so challenging to teachers, being less disruptive in the playground, being able to concentrate better on their work, and being more settled at home

More generally, amongst the staff, there would hopefully be an increased understanding of the children’s concerns and what may have been fuelling their unsettled behaviour

And for all of the children, again hopefully, there would be a sense that they belonged in a community where being unsettled did not lead to exclusion but to the satisfactory resolution of their concerns and the chance to get back on the right road again.

Sheila K Cameron

(c) Copyright Sheila K Cameron and Custtad 

More information on CUSTTAD is available at


Sunday, May 13, 2007


Two information pamphlets are made available to trainees. One is intended for colleagues; a smaller one is for parents. Most of the text for both is provided below.


CUSTTAD is a method of working with children which has been developed over a period of twenty years. The practice of CUSTTAD takes place with individual children in a room which has been specially resourced and dedicated for the purpose. It is particularly suited to children between the ages of five and eleven.

CUSTTAD draws heavily on some of the well tried and tested practices of art, play and child psychotherapy and places particular emphasis on the inter-related use of sand trays and a procedure called Talk and Draw. CUSTTAD is about creating conditions which are conducive to children sharing any concerns they might have - if and when they feel able or inclined to do so. And, having accessed those concerns, CUSTTAD is about making all possible efforts to support the child in the task of addressing them as speedily and effectively as possible.

The initial phase of CUSTTAD's development took place in one of Glasgow's two special schools for children who had been identified as having emotional and behavioural problems. It was supervised by Strathclyde Psychological Services and was included in an inspection by HM Inspectors of Schools in February 1987. The following comments are from that report:

'The assistant head teacher had, with the support of the child guidance service, planned, developed and was in the process of evaluating innovative and specialized therapeutic procedures which were based on creative expression and were designed to help all pupils deal with their personal problems.'

A full account of the work in that setting, entitled BALANCING THE REQUEST TO BE GOOD, was published by Free Association Books of London in August 1995. Concurrent with the preparation of the book a facility was established in Royston Primary School.

The second phase of CUSTTAD's development took place in one of the community-based clinics of the Department of Child and Family Psychiatry, Yorkhill NHS Trust, from April 1996 to April 2000. During that time over two hundred children were referred to the CUSTTAD facility from within the Department, for treatment and assessment purposes. An in-house evaluation of the work was carried out for the Department's Strategic Planning Group.

The aim of the evaluation was to appraise CUSTTAD's potential to assist with the assessment and treatment of children. It also covered issues of transferability as regards enhancing the skills of other employees in their role as child and family workers. Comments from the write-up include:

'The trainees' views on the benefits of CUSTTAD were extremely positive.' and 'The main value of CUSTTAD is as a diagnostic tool and as a means through which children can give expression to their ideas and concerns. It is therefore a valuable resource which would enhance the quality of service provided by D.C.F.P.'

Based on the work in D.C.F.P. and in Royston Primary School the foundations of a training program were put in place and that program has subsequently been continued in association with South Lanarkshire Education Department. South Lanarkshire will soon have CUSTTAD facilities in fourteen of their mainstream Primary Schools. The facilities will also be employed as part of South Lanarkshire's Integrated Children’s Services provision.

The training program is available to workers whose management at all levels can offer genuine top down support and can guarantee the required dedicated space or negotiate access to a CUSTTAD facility.

CUSTTAD is a non-profit making organization. Personnel involved in various capacities, in overseeing all aspects of CUSTTAD's implementation and development include a Consultant Child Psychiatrist, a Senior Family Therapist, a Senior Educational Psychologist, a Head Teacher, a PrincipalTeacher, and two Behaviour Support Specialists.


CUSTTAD is a way of working with children which has been developed over a period of twenty years.

CUSTTAD has been used in one of Yorkhill Hospital's community-based clinics, in two Glasgow schools, in a school in Midlothian and in several schools in South Lanarkshire.

CUSTTAD is particularly suited to children between the ages of five and eleven but some older and younger children also find it useful.

CUSTTAD's main purpose is to provide the setting and the support children need to sort out any concerns they might have.

No child is invited to use CUSTTAD unless their parents/carers have been told about it and they have given their permission. But it is the child who decides whether or not they will use a CUSTTAD facility.

When a child does have concerns CUSTTAD aims to resolve them as speedily as possible, with the child's involvement and with the assistance of their parents/carers. Other professionals may be asked to assist if required.

The name CUSTTAD is taken from the words the Combined Use of Sand Trays and Talk And Draw.

Anyone who would like copies please e-mail

Saturday, May 12, 2007


This picture was produced by a boy from Royston Primary School who had been having bad dreams in which the main protagonists were Dracula and Freddie Krueger. Superman was added as he continued to talk about his dreams and agree that he might benefit from NOT watching any more scary videos.


CUSTTAD is an acronym derived from the two core procedures of the approach which are called Talk and Draw and Making a Tray. More exactly it is taken from the words the Combined Use of Sand Trays and Talk And Draw.The name was devised in 1996 to assist with the write up of an evaluation of its use in a clinic setting.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007




Each Custtad facility uses similar furniture and materials but they are all meant to make it as comfortable as possible for a child to step inside -particularly for anyone who may have been hesitating about accepting the invitation to use it


This club was developed to help children who said they had a problem walking away from 'difficult' situations.

Further information on the club can be found at

The WALKAWAY web site is now also providing a piggy back for MORE CUSTTAD. This consists of an assortment of background information which is not available elsewhere.