Engaging and INCLUSIVE solutions to
teach language, communication and literacy skills


Creative, actionable ideas to shape young brains.

Building a world that puts the youngest in society first. 

I Can Read Without You (ICRWY) Project

New Pilot! Braintree Forest 'Walk in the Woods' Sessions for 2 - 4-year-olds in Dorset.
OUTDOOR Code Mapping within Play-based Activities. 


Early Childhood Development Intervention

The Braintree Forest Early Learning Approach (UK)

The more we study the brain, the more we understand that it functions less like a computer and more like an ecosystem. “The brain is in no sense like any kind of instruction machine, like a computer. Each individual’s brain is more like a unique rainforest, teeming with growth, decay, competition, diversity, and selection” (Gerald Edelman quoted in Cornwell, 2007).

The 'brain tree' offers an excellent metaphor when discussing with teachers how genetic “differences” may bring with them advantages as well disadvantages for their students. Embracing neurodiversity means understanding what each brain needs to thrive and flourish, and moving away from a mindset in which there is a 'normal brain'; the neurodiversity-inspired educator will have a deep respect for each child’s unique brain and seek to create the best-differentiated learning environment within which it can thrive. As they are teaching in a neurodivergent classroom, they are caring not only for individual brain trees but a whole forest! They have their own ecosystem, and so many factors will impact whether it flourishes or not.  

The use of ecological metaphors is also useful because teachers may understand this concept more easily. Imagine the shift in behaviours when children are seen as “rare and beautiful flowers” rather than “damaged,” or a “problem”. As humans we understand that individual species of plants have specific environmental needs and that if we are to care for them we must understand those needs; teachers would not seek to “cure,” or “fix,” the plants so they all respond in the same way, or expect them to flourish if all were put in the same environment, and with the same amount of sun and water, and type of soil. Instead, teachers will seek to discover students’ unique requirements for optimal growth, and then implement differentiated strategies to help them bloom. And this is what we achieved while developing the Speech Sound Pics (SSP) Approach in Australia.

However I am in the UK undertaking doctoral studies, and reluctant to try to launch the Speech Sound Pics Approach as it is not a synthetic phonics approach. I have launched Braintree Forest Learning, managed by The Reading Hut Ltd in Dorset, and am focused on the early years (as an early intervention) and supporting neurodivergent learners of all ages, in part by delivering 'Grapheme Code Mapping' teacher training. I can't modify the Speech Sound Pics (SSP) Approach to 'fit' with the DfE criteria for validation and am not convinced that the recently validated systematic synthetic phonics programmes are all designed to effectively meet the needs of children with dyslexia. I will be discussing this - and ways to 'fill the gaps' within a series of PATOSS lectures with the wonderful Dr Grace Elliott. 
I do hope you'll join me!   

Miss Emma 'The Reading Whisperer'

Emma Hartnell-Baker BEd Hons. MA SEN 
ADSHE Professional QA Tutor
Doctoral Student, University of Reading
Braintree Forest Learning, Embracing Neurodiversity
The Reading Hut Ltd

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