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


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