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Symbolic item for every child

I watched with emotion this clip from BBC Family & Education on Facebook.

In brief, six-year-old Bodhi, who is autistic, showed delight every time he walked past the large cuddly gorilla. The gorilla unfortunately disappeared and its owner, Jason, searched for another one and Bodhi was delighted again.

This story reminds me of my eldest son, Rian, who as some of you know is on the autistic spectrum. When he was younger and attended a local pre-school, his behaviour was ‘a cause for concern’. This was before his diagnosis. Rian’s ‘thing’ was Thomas the Tank Engine, and I have since been told that some autistic children love Thomas.

On entering the pre-school each morning, Mary used to hand Rian the Thomas train from the shelf. This made Rian feel that he belonged and grounded him.

Mary sadly died of cancer a few years ago, but I will never forget the kindness that she showed my son.

On my travels, either in training or when consulting, I always remind educators of the importance of making sure that every child has something symbolic that is their own. We as adults have our ‘things’; mine is my jewellery that I always wear.

“To take children seriously is to value them for who they are right now rather than adults-in-the-making.” ~ Alfie Kohn

It is equally important that every educator knows their children and are curious about them in order to support them. This means more than just quoting from ‘Development Matters’ or reading what an electronic learning journal has pre-populated. Educators must truly know every child, for example, knowing what makes a child laugh, knowing who is in their family and knowing what is important to them. Ofsted’s New Inspection Framework states: “The evidence collected must refer to… practitioner’s knowledge of each child.” Therefore, it is super important that educators know their key children and how to support them day to day with their learning and development.


I am sometimes asked whether it is necessary to attend a stand-alone professional development session on the new Early Years Ofsted Framework when you and your setting feel you may not need one. I would suggest reading the new Framework and cross-referencing it to your practice.

  • Identify any gaps in your practice, which may be something that you can do in-house, in terms of learning and development.
  • Do thorough research (there is loads on the internet and ask colleagues on forums for links/research-informed documents, etc).
  • Assess the skills and knowledge that your team has and whether they can help fill in any gaps. You may wish to get support for one or two areas of the new Framework.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any gaps in practice that you would like support with.


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