Who are we?

Hirstwood Training Ltd

We are small, but enthusiastic training team, who love to share our expertise in all things sensory!

We provide training and consultancy specialising in the use & development of sensory rooms/spaces.  We also provide a varied portfolio of expert training courses with recognised experts in related fields and create & deliver ‘of the moment’ conference packages reflecting current issues in special education i.e. implications of the Rochford Review, published November 2016. We also specialise in the delivery of training via social media, especially YouTube and the development of distant e-learning packages.

Dynamic – we love our subject and understand how to deliver this in a way which motivates and drives your staff. Training is not just about the sharing of knowledge and expertise – it’s about memorable presentation and empowering delegates to be confident they can replicate these strategies.

Expertise – ours is based upon well over 25 years of practical knowledge, giving us the insight into what works, and more importantly what doesn’t, in multi sensory practice. Regular ‘hands on’ sessions with children and adults, in a variety of multi sensory settings, enable us to maintain this high level of excellent practice.

Inspiring  – our training is empowering and confidence-boosting, encouraging staff to develop and expand their repertoire of effective sensory learning & communication strategies in a wide variety of situations.

We work with: EYFS services/providers, Special Schools, Mainstream Schools with specialist provision, Adult services/providers for adults with a learning disability, Adult special education colleges, Transition services.

We deliver services to the UK and worldwide.  We deliver training across the UK and have delivered training in Australia, Denmark, Sweden, Canada, Malta, Singapore, Malaysia, Egypt, Russia, Italy & the US.


Meet our associate consultants!

Richard Hirstwood is the founder and principal tutor for Hirstwood Training. His training courses have, and continue to be, experienced worldwide. This year 2017 Richard will be delivering courses and hands on training worldwide including the UK, Australia and New Yealand. His extensive experience is based on practical knowledge, giving him insight into what works and what doesn’t in multi sensory practice. Regular sessions with children and adults with autism and all additional needs in a variety of multi sensory rooms, and more recently iPads, enable him to maintain this level of excellent practice. His YouTube channels are viewed by over one million people every year and he constantly updates his ideas movies and papers featured in magazines such as PMLD Link. He was the co-author of ‘The practical guide to multi sensory rooms’ in 1995 and has continued to create both offline and online content, including a seven hour online training course for iPads. His enthusiasm for his subject and his sensory skills are endless!

Contact us to see how we can work with you to develop your sensory skill and provision!

Clive Smith

Clive has a long association with Hirstwood Training and has well over 30 years’ experience working with children and adults with Autism and complex additional needs.

With Richard Hirstwood, he co-authored a chapter in the book ‘Dual Sensory Impairment’ in 1995 which was one of first books in the UK to feature a chapter on multi sensory rooms and learning.

Clive has extensive experience in working with children with challenging behaviour, those on the autistic spectrum and/or with profound multiple and learning disabilities. As a specialist advisory teacher within a Behaviour Support Team, he is skilled at advising/supporting staff to meet the diverse needs of this group.

Clive contributes to many Hirstwood Training events and conferences typically on the following topics:

  • Sensory issues and challenging behaviour
  • Autism and barriers to play
  • Developing appropriate sensory spaces for pupils with autism
  • Modifying an individuals learning environment to maximise their learning potential.

Naomi Rosenberg 

Naomi is an experienced teacher of the deaf who has chosen to work with children with complex needs. She has an in-depth understanding of deafness in combination with autism, profound learning difficulties, epilepsy, visual impairment and physical challenges. She has always championed a non subject based curriculum for semi-formal learners in favour of a multi sensory topic based curriculum.

She passionately believes in inclusion and develops activities and opportunities for all children to work and play together with choices and creative communication strategies using all the senses.

Naomi has combined her teaching with consultancy and training work and volunteers for Sense, keeping her work up to date and relevant. She has also been a short break foster carer for special children.

With her focus on experiential learning for all, Naomi’s lively and hands on training is a frequent contribution to Hirstwood Training’s conferences and events; highlighting:

  • understanding how hearing and visual impairments, ASC and other processing difficulties impact on learning and how we perceive our world
  • creating working environments that support using residual sensory information such as acoustics, visuals and layouts
  • language development, nonverbal communication strategies and learning styles
  • sensory activities that encourage attention, looking, listening, feeling, moving, communication and good mental health
  • using a Clonkerboard, or resonance board, as a learning resource across the curriculum
  • using Dance Massage, an intensive communication tool, suitable for children with severe autism and PMLD



Chris Barson

Chris founded Positive About Autism in January 2009. Prior to that Chris was External Training Manager for the National Autistic Society. Chris has a long involvement with disability and autism. After studying drama at the Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff he started out as a drama tutor with Arts for Disabled People in Wales.  Chris trained as a learning disabilities Nurse at University Hospital Wales. After qualifying Chris became a Community Nurse for people with learning disabilities.  Moving from Community Nursing into a specialist setting, Chris gained experience in intensive support for people who present a severe challenge to services. Chris first joined the National Autistic Society (NAS) in 1996 as a Project Officer in Wales on a Children in Need project reviewing short term care provision. After working with the NAS Regional Development Team promoting service development throughout the UK.

Chris went to work at the Royal College of General Practitioners, in 2000, where he managed Professional Development and Quality programmes. Chris rejoined NAS in 2004.Chris has contributed to the design and delivery of courses provided by Canterbury Christ Church University, and University of Cumbria. Chris is a contributing author to ‘The Autism Spectrum in the 21st Century:Exploring Psychology, Biology and Practice’ Jessica Kingsley Press 2010 (Highly Commended 2011 BMA Medical Book Awards.)

Chris’s wealth of experience in the field of autism, as well as being a dynamic presenter with a lively but informative style; makes him a major asset to Hirstwood Training.

Chris contributes to many Hirstwood Training events and conferences, typically on the following topics:

  • What Do We Do About Difficult Behaviour?
  • Communicationship™  -Great skills with Communication and Relationships
  • Let’s Start Early!
  • Autism: The Basics
  • Play and Autism
  • What’s the evidence that iPads are an effective teaching tool with autism?
  • SEMH and Autism

Carol Allen 

Carol Allen is an education advisor for ICT and Inclusion, currently offering specialised support to Local Authorities; schools; parents and carers and a wide range of educators across the world. She has taught since 1980 in both mainstream schools – primary and high, and schools for students with severe, profound and multiple learning difficulties. Recognising, as an English specialist, that communication lies at the heart of all effective teaching, the majority of her work has centred on creative and engaging use of technology to support communication in its widest sense. Carol works in partnership with many companies in the educational technology field as she holds a strong belief in sharing and collaboration across all participants in order to maximise the potential opportunities for her students. All work centres on easy to replicate practice which is fun, achievable and creates communication enhancement opportunities.

Carol frequently contributes to Hirstwood Training events and conferences, offering topics such as:

  • School Audit of technology provision – Are you making the best use of what you currently have in school?
  • Digital Literacy and e-safety
  • Creative Communication
  • Hands on/hands off
  • Supporting the Anxious Learner
  • Indoor/outdoor learning: making the most of your learning environment
  • Communication and the Computing curriculum
  • TA Toolkit

Steve Phillips

Steve is an independent SEND Consultant and the Deputy Principal of Fountaindale School until December 2017; where he had lead responsibility for designing, leading and implementing a new curriculum approach to meet the changing needs of the schools learners. Besides holding qualifications to degree level, Steve has additional qualifications in educational management and special needs.

Steve’s area of expertise is leading and managing change within a school setting to develop bespoke curricula and assessment tools for learners with profound or severe/complex learning difficulties and disabilities that forms part of a schools vision.

Specifically, in curriculum terms, how to design, implement and deliver non-subject specific and pre-subject curriculum models of learning, within the contact of the National Curriculum, Curriculum for Excellence and the Rochford Review outcomes; and the educational rationale behind these approaches.

He is able to work with school teams in drafting school curriculum and assessment policies, deliver whole school INSET on curriculum and assessment, as well as the nature and role of learning environments.

In terms of leadership, Steve is experienced in working with school leaders to audit provision in order to formulate a school vision; to explore how this is shared and understood and implemented through change management strategies. He is also able to explore concepts of non-judgemental teaching; provision mapping and the importance of ‘data’ capture using a variety of strategies including observation, learning walks and engagement tools.

Steve’s skills were recognised by OFSTED in March 2017 when describing senior leaders at Fountaindale School saying ‘their vision and actions are inspirational…leaders are passionate in driving through improvements so that every pupil experiences only the highest quality of learning.’