Meet Our Associates


Hirstwood Training are a growing, dynamic and enthusiastic team of expert consultants, whose mission it is to share the very best sensory approaches to breaking down barriers to learning for all pupils with SEND.

Our expertise is based upon experience. All of our associate consultants are expert practitioners in their specific field; they are passionate about what they do and have a vast knowledge and a plethora of practical ideas and strategies to share with you.

Our training is empowering, creative, inspiring, confidence-boosting, innovative – and FUN!

We work with special schools; EYFS services/providers; mainstream schools and those with specialist provision; adult services/providers for adults with a learning disability; adult special education colleges and transition services.

We deliver services within the UK and worldwide. This year we have delivered training in New Zealand; with a trip later this year to the UAE. We have previously delivered training in Australia, Denmark, Sweden, Canada, Malta, Singapore, Malaysia, Egypt, Russia, Italy & the US.

Richard Hirstwood

Richard Hirstwood

Lead Consultant and Founder of Hirstwood Training

Richard Hirstwood is the founder of & lead consultant for Hirstwood Training.

He is passionate about enabling educators/practitioners to maximise the impact of delivering sensory learning opportunities, in a sensory room or other learning environment, with the resources available to them. He has developed innovative ways of delivering key skills and competences via face to face training; coaching sessions; and hands on work with teachers & teaching assistants; as well as creating bespoke portfolios of training videos for more than a hundred individual schools & settings.

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 and classroom settings enable him to maintain this level of excellent practice.

Along with Mark Gray, Richard was the co-author of ‘The practical guide to multi sensory rooms’ (1995) and contributed a chapter in ‘Dual Sensory Impairment’ (1995) with Clive Smith. His most recent published work is a featured chapter in ‘Technology for SEND in Primary Schools: A Guide for Best Practice’ (2017.) .

Richard continues to create both offline and online learning content. He believes in the importance of freely sharing new ideas, training strategies & resources via social media, especially through his YouTube channel, which has currently has 3252 subscribers and over a million views!

In 2019 he completed an online training resource for London Grid for Learning (LGFL) called ‘Multi sensory learning,’ which is now accessible to over 700 mainstream and special schools. ‘Multi sensory learning’ provides a structured approach, which is split into different modules and provides video, text, photographs, key points and thinking points for professionals to work though to gain an understanding of how to implement changes to their practice to benefit their learners.

Recently, Richard has been at the forefront of the recent changes in the UK special education curriculum hosting conferences; bringing schools together to share experiences and facilitate further discussion.

Clive Smith Training

Clive Smith

Senior HTA advisory SEN specialist

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
  • Identifying & reducing barriers to play
  • Developing appropriate sensory spaces for pupils with autism.
  • Modifying an individuals learning environment to maximise their learning potential.

Chris Barson

Hirstwood Training Associate – Autism Specialist

Chris Barson 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. 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 the 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).

Carol Allen

HIrstwood Training Associate – Technology Specialist

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.

Steve Phillips

HIrstwood Training Associate – Leadership Specialist

Steve Phillips 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.’ 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 school’s 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, a 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.

Naomi Rosenberg

HIrstwood Training Associate – Teacher of the Deaf/ Sound Specialist

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 worldcreating working environments that support using residual sensory information such as acoustics, visuals and layoutslanguage development, nonverbal communication strategies and learning stylessensory activities that encourage attention, looking, listening, feeling, moving, communication and good mental healthusing a Clonkerboard, or resonance board, as a learning resource across the curriculumusing Dance Massage, an intensive communication tool, suitable for children with severe autism and PMLD

Julie Cowpe-Stephens

HIrstwood Training Associate – Teaching and sensory Specialist

Julie has worked in Special Education for thirty seven years. Her main area of specialism and passion is in Sensory Approaches to Learning, understanding sensory processing, sensory integration and regulation strategies. She is also skilled at mentoring staff on understanding sensory behaviours; producing CASP plans – (consistent approaches to support pupils learning) and sensory profiles. She has also developed planning strategies with teachers to embed a sensory rich curriculum through themes, topics and stories using high- and low-tech sensory resources, sensory rooms and interactive studios. She enjoys creating sensory learning environments both within the classroom and in other areas in a school environment.

Julie has also provided outreach support to many mainstream schools and early years settings on:

  • Planning for sensory approaches to learning
  • Inclusion strategies
  • Support packages and sensory plans
  • How to develop a sensory curriculum
  • How to create sensory spaces/rooms and environments
  • Sensory assessments and profiles with practical strategies to manage daily challenges

Helen Dillon

HIrstwood Training Associate – Teaching and Visual Specialist

Helen has been a SEN practitioner for twenty one years working at Fountaindale Special School for children and young adults with complex learning, sensory and physical disabilities. Fountaindale is currently OFSTED rated as Outstanding.During her career she has provided outreach support to mainstream schools on visual and hearing impairments; adapting the environment; making resources and developing communication. She has supported pupils from Fountaindale on dual placements in many mainstream settings, run summer schools, after school clubs, college placement and provided private tutoring and support to many families. She loves technology and provides support on accessible programmes and switches used to engage learners on computers; ipads and touch screens. She has planned with teachers strategies to embed a sensory rich curriculum through themes, topics and stories using high- and low-tech sensory resources; sensory rooms and interactive studios. Since 2009 her specialism and expertise has been in supporting children and young people with visual and hearing impairments.Helen provides support and training on: Planning and mentoring school staff on how to make the curriculum accessible for learners with VI and HIHow to improve the auditory and visual environment in the classroom Support on using and maintaining audiological specialist equipment Assessing pupils’ vision and hearing levels and writing sensory profiles to ensure a consistent approach to teaching and learning One to one visual rehabilitation and stimulation