August 29, 2020

Returning to School Resources September 2020

Below is a wide range of back to school resources that are freely available online. September 2020 is out of most peoples comfort zones in terms of health, safety or anxiety as we start to begin a ‘new normal’ in the world. Some of the resources signposted may be useful for your own family, or for that of others during this unusual time.


Autism Little Learners have lots of social stories around Coronavirus, mask wearing, Covid-19 tests and returning to school.

Books Beyond Words also have a wide range of social stories around Coronavirus including having a test, when someone dies from Coronavirus and what to do if you have the virus.

Everybody Worries by John Burgerman. Even the bravest of the brave and the coolest of the cool worry. Worrying is normal when so much has changed. Inspired by conversations with his parent friends who weren’t sure how to explain what is happening right now to their small children, artist and writer Jon Burgerman decided to do something to help.

While We Can’t Hug by Eoin McLaughlin and Polly Dunbar. Hedgehog and Tortoise want to give each other a great big hug, but they’re not allowed to touch.

The Buddy Bots go Back to School by Teacher’s Pet. Follow the Buddy Bots gang as they return to their school, after being at home with their families in lockdown due to coronavirus! Watch as they find out what has changed, what that means for them and discover that even though change can be scary at first, it can also be lots of fun.

How to Go Back to School! by Mike Forde. Families and schools begin to work out how children can return, this second story helps children come to terms with the new normal in their classrooms and playgrounds.

Keeping Our Social Distance by PECS UK. A story on social distancing and why it’s needed.

Lucy Goes Back to School by Chris Duke. From the author of Lucy’s Blue Day, this sees Lucy go back to school, and all the emotions that come with it.

10 Books for Children Who Worry. A list of 10 books for children age 5-12 years who have anxiety or worries.

Lenny & Lily in Lockdown by Prof Barry Carpenter, Ali Erskine and Jenny Hawkes. Lenny and Lily live next door to each other. Every day they walk to school together and play with the same group of friends. Then one day their teacher explains there is a pandemic. She tells them it means their school will be closing for some weeks and they will be learning at home. Lenny and Lily feel sad and abandoned. The story explores Lenny and Lily’s experiences of loss and change in the days of the lockdown, how they develop ways of maintaining their friendship, the challenges of learning at home and the range of emotions they each experience.

Lenny & Lily Return to School by Prof Barry Carpenter, Ali Erskine and Jenny Hawkes. Lenny and Lily have had different experiences of the lockdown, but now it’s time for them to return to school. Lily is excited to go back and meet up with her friends again, but Lenny has enjoyed being at home with his family and feels more anxious. When Lenny and Lily go back to school they both face different challenges. Lenny struggles to reconnect with his friends and find his place in the group. Lily has found home learning difficult and struggles to keep up with the pace of lessons in class. The story explores the range of emotions Lenny and Lily experience as they come back into school and rebuild relationships with their teachers and friends.

My Story About Pandemics and the Coronavirus by Carol Gray.

Useful Websites

Elsa Support have a huge amount of free resources based on supporting social and emotional learning for children.

Reachout ASC have a range of useful resources on their website to manage returning to school including social stories, visual timetables, mind maps and symbols.

The PDA Society have a list of the support resources available for those with PDA during Coronavirus, including tips from adult PDA-ers.

Autism Education Trust have resources available for preparing children and young adults in returning to school this September.

Leeds Autism AIM (Advocacy, Information & Mentoring) have cheap of resources for children, families, adults and professionals.

Sheffield Children’s Hospital have Coronavirus Resources for Children and Families.

National Autistic Society have resources and information about Coronavirus.

IPSEA – update on COVID-19, school re-opening and SEN provision.

Online Training

Managing Your Child’s Back to School Anxiety” Webinar by ACAMH. Live event held on 2nd September 2020 at 5pm.

Preparing Autistic and SEND Children for Going Back to School” by Lynne McCann at Reachout ASC

“Returning to school after the coronavirus lockdown” by the Mental Health Foundation.

How can SENCO’s Respond to the Covid Lockdown and Transition Back to School” by NASEN.

Covid-19: Psychological First Aid” by Public Health England.

Other Useful Resources

KS2 (Age 7-11 years) What is Coronavirus Newspaper Article can be useful if children want to know the facts around Covid-19.

Special Needs Jungle – Awesome and Autistic in a Post-Pandemic World. Siena has some incredible tips that not only teenage autistic girls (and boys) would find useful, but that many neurodivergent adults will too!

Back to School Widgit Symbols. Back to school toolkit of resources to help support signage, wayfinding and personal care around a socially distanced school environment. The toolkit also includes a set of well-being and mental health resources to assist children returning to school after such a major disruption to their normal day-to-day lives.

Preventing Anxiety Based School Refusal by Lincolnshire County Council.

Schools Reopening – Information for Parents and Carers by Well Child.

Top Tips for Autistic and ADHD Children for Returning to School.

Autism and Coronavirus: 20 Top Tips by Peter Vermeulen

What to Expect when Returning to School and College by Ambitious About Autism.

Transition Toolkit – Helping Support a Child Through Change from Autism Education Trust.

Autistica – Coping with the Uncertainty of Coronavirus.

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August 20, 2020

Children’s Zoom Activities – Sponsored by Stowe Family Law

During lockdown we have provided a range of activities for children to take part in online, including drama lessons, circus acts, taekwondo and yoga sessions.

On 12th August 2020 the children took part in a Magic and Wizard workshop. The children had a great time watching this magical event happen! This event was kindly sponsored by Stowe Family Law, who have recently opened offices in Sheffield.

Stowe Family Law specialise in divorce, civil partnerships and cohabitation disputes, whilst ensuring that you benefit from the firm’s collective knowledge to identify the best approach for you.

Find out more about what Stowe Family Law can offer at

Huge thanks again to Stowe Family Law for their kind donation to support our work. See below for photos of the fantastic activities!

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August 6, 2020

Online South Yorkshire Autism Fayre 2020

Last year Sparkle Sheffield, along with our trading arm of Autism Union, held the South Yorkshire Autism Fayre at Magna Science Adventure Centre, Rotherham. It was a roaring success with over 20 speakers and 40 stands that brought in over 500 members of the public and professionals alike to share knowledge and information, provide services and products to delegates from South Yorkshire and wider afield.

Unfortunately, due to Covid-19 and it’s ongoing implications, we are unable to host the event in person again this year.

But do not worry – we’re going digital!

The South Yorkshire Autism Fayre 2020 will be completely online – that means everyone across the country (or the world!) can attend the event and listen to the multitude of fantastic speakers that we have lined up for you.
 The fayre will take place on the following dates via Zoom sessions:

  • Sunday 13th September
  • Monday 14th September
  • Tuesday 15th September
  • Wednesday 16th September

And a very special Kids Day on Sunday 20th September!

Follow us on Facebook –

Visit our website –

Find out more about the speakers we have lined up below…

Dr Temple Grandin
During the South Yorkshire Autism Fayre Online 2020 event, Temple Grandin will host a Q&A session. Grandin will answer questions based on her own experiences, her own autistic brain and the journey she has been on throughout her life, both good and bad.

Dr Carrie Grant
Carrie will be speaking at the South Yorkshire Autism Fayre about her experiences of parenting her children with additional needs. Carrie is a Mum to four children; 3 birth, 1 adopted, 3 with ADHD, 2 autistic.

Dr Luke Beardon
At the South Yorkshire Autism Fayre, Luke will talk about anxiety in autistic children, prior to the release of his new book in December 2020 on the topic. He will also host a short Q&A session after his talk.

Stephen Connolly
Stephen is an autistic academic at Sheffield Hallam University, being the course leader on the MA Autism Spectrum degree, and lecturer on numerous other degree pathways. Stephen will speak on two topics; his experiences of Higher Education and the best way to manage transitions for autistic people during this time as well as the sensory world and how it impacts on everyday life.

Dr Mark Brown
Mark will host talks on his most popular topics; “Puberty and Neurodiversity – Ready or Not Here It Comes” and “The Online World – Keeping your child/teenager safe”. Mark will also host 1:1 advice sessions, where tailored support will be given on a personalised basis.

Chrissy Meleady MBE
Chrissy will speak about equalities and human rights, including when advocating for an autistic individuals’ rights. She will share her experiences including appearing in court and other relevant tribunals, primarily in relation to the issuing, or content, of ECHPs.

IPSEA will be discussing SEN law around children’s Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP’s) and education-based rights. This session is hugely discounted from IPSEA’s standard fee’s and funded by The National Lottery Community Fund.

During the session IPSEA will cover the following:

• What is an EHC plan?
• Legal definitions
• Steps to getting a plan
• EHC needs assessments
• Content of an EHC plan
• Settings which can be named in an EHC plan
• Appealing against a final plan
• Annual review

Graysons Solicitors
Graysons Solicitors will discuss the options available regarding wills and trusts in relation to children, young people and adults with SEND. There will be an opportunity for questions and answers at the end of the session. It’s very easy to put off making a will, or putting a trust or lasting power of attorney in place, but by doing so you are protecting your family’s future

Michael Connolly
Michael will discuss the topic of airports and travel for individuals with additional needs. He will use his experience to give advice and suggestions based on travel both in the UK and abroad.

Autism Angels
Autism Angels will be attending the South Yorkshire Autism Fayre and talking about how animals can make a difference in the life of individuals with additional needs. Autism Angels work with horses to support learning and to create ‘real life’ scenarios that can be then practiced and worked through.

The Zaman’s
Rani and Shad Zaman will be speaking about their experiences of autism from a parental perspective. Here they give a little insight into their life, and how they wish to share their experiences to help support others.

Shona Murphy
Shona will be speaking about her experiences as an autistic parent to two autistic children. She will discuss topics including sensory experiences and executive functioning issues, and some of the social problems she had with the mum groups when her children were young.

Special Thanks
With huge thanks to The National Lottery Community Fund who are funding this event via Autism Union.

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August 4, 2020

FREE Ideas and Activity Packs

During the months of lockdown, we have been hard at work not only supporting our children at home, but also helping other families with activity ideas. The information is widely available online, but who has the time to scour through the Internet to find ideas on a daily basis?!

So here they are, our Sparkle Sheffield Family Support Packs, and Sparkle Sheffield Activity Ideas, free to download.

Feel free to share these links far and wide, they are there to benefit everyone and anyone who may need them during this unusual time.

** Please note: These booklets were produced at the beginning of lockdown, from April 2020 onwards, therefore some of the live events listed may have finished. However, the majority of venues/organisations have continued to support families during lockdown, their websites will have more information.

We hope you enjoy!!

Sparkle Sheffield Covid-19 Lockdown Family Support Pack – Version 1

Sparkle Sheffield Covid-19 Lockdown Family Support Pack – Version 2

Sparkle Sheffield Activity Ideas

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May 30, 2020

Sparkle Sheffield Virtual Balloon Race

We are having a ‘Sparkle Sheffield Virtual Balloon Race’

Join us in a virtual balloon race, see how far your balloon can get, and there’s prizes for the winners!!

You have to name your balloon, choose a colour for it and write a message on it, blow it up and then your balloon is set and ready to start the race!

When the race starts you will be able to check your balloon at any time to see what place your balloon is, and if you are close to the finish line!

Buy your balloons here…

Balloons cost £3 each, you can buy as many balloons as you like


The race does not start tunic 05/06/2020 at 12 noon

The race ends on 08/06/2002 at 12 noon!

There are prizes for the first three balloons to cross the finish line!

1st Prize = £50
2nd Prize =£25
3rd Prize = £10

Instructions for the website:

  1. Click on the link to buy your balloon (It’s in the top right hand corner) 
  2. Fill in your name and email address
  3. A nickname for your balloon 
  4. A message for your balloon
  5. Choose a colour 



We hope you enjoy the race, good luck and happy balloon-ing!!

Any questions? You can contact us on [email protected] 

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May 17, 2020

Should I send my autistic child back to school in June?

In light of everything that is going on in the world right now, we have had lots of questions from parents wanting to know if they should send their autistic child back to school on 1st June. We can’t give exact advice without knowing the child, their school environment and all other contributing factors, but we can give some guidance based on what we have done ourselves in making a decision for our own children. When thinking about whether or not you should send your child back to school, we advise you consider the following;

Firstly, parents would be best speaking to school and seeing what their plan is in relation to returning to school. There are likely to be lots of changes for children when returning to school, some of which families will have no control over, but you can plan as much as is possible for a return (or no return) to school.  


When your child returns to school, will everything be as they know it should be? 

Will a reduced timetable be in operation? Some schools are only accepting pupils back on 2/3 days a week, or half days. Would this be more detrimental to them returning to school part time as opposed to going the full 5 days a week? 

Will they be in their classroom environment, with their known peers and teachers? Schools are having to work very differently in getting children back into school and there could be lots of things that are not their normal, which may create huge problems for them. 

How will they get to school? At the moment, transport services are not running for schools, therefore parents are required to get children to school themselves. Consider, is this physically possible? If you do not drive and need to use public transport, is this a bigger risk for you and your child’s safety? Would this change in routine distress your child or increase anxieties before the school day has even begun?

There is also mental health to consider, would they become distressed by the changes? Would this have a more detrimental impact in the long run, either at home or in the school environment? 

Care for my child

Am I able to use other people to help care for my child while they are not at school?

If there is no reason for your child to need to go to the houses of others, then it should not happen. As per the social distancing measures put in place by the Government, everyone should adhere to a 2-metre social distance where possible. Also, it is possible for your child to go to school in a successful way, if everyone works together. However, for lots of autistic children, close relatives and/or friends play a crucial role in supporting their everyday lives. 

Although the Government have put stringent social distancing measures in place to avoid contact with people outside the family home, for some families, relatives play a key role in supporting autistic children. For example, Grandparents are able to help care for family members, if they are an essential role in caring for an individual. There is guidance here around ‘unpaid carers’, which in effect your child’s Grandparents are for them if they support your child/family on a regular basis.

Your child has needs that are in addition to their age-related peers, which means that they don’t see the world the same as others. This means their needs need to be met by those who know them, in an environment which he can be kept safe, for their own safety and that of others. If you are considering leaving your child with someone they don’t see regularly and therefore would become more distressed whilst with them, then that would be against social distancing measures, as it wouldn’t be in the child’s best interests. 

Children who receive support from a Personal Assistant (PA) via Direct Payments or a Personal Health Budget (PHB) are still able to receive support from these carers at this time. Disability Sheffield have a number of ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ here, as well as lots of information on their website around Coronavirus, individual employers and PA’s. 

Can my child go to their Grandparent’s as opposed to going back to school in June?

In terms of Grandparents, it’s important to weigh up the pro’s and con’s. Do they suffer from any health issuesthat mean that they are in the shielding category, putting them at extreme risk of illness? If so, we would strongly advise against any child going there in order to keep people safe. However, if they are generally fit and well, then although there is no legal guidance upon Grandparents being able to care for their Grandchildren, or those with ASD, what are the pro’s of your child going to Grandparents instead of school? In effect they would come into contact with a lot less people by going to a Grandparents house, and seeing (the same) 2 people each day, as opposed to going to school and coming into contact with possibly numerous children and adults.

As previously mentioned, if your child doesn’t need to go to relatives houses, or is able to go to school in a successful way, then it is achievable. 

Social Distancing

What about social distancing?

Consider if your child is able to understand social distancing? If not, there is every moral argument to allow him to stay at home (or with relatives) as they would pose a bigger risk to themselves, and others, whilst in school around other children/adults who they would not socially distance from. Likewise, social distancing is a very new (and previously unheard of!) concept. It’s never had to happen before, so may not be an easy thing to have to comply with once back at school, when you want to see your friends and teachers!


Is attendance compulsory or will I be fined if my child does not attend school?

Attendance is not compulsory for any child at this stage for numerous reasons, and the DfE have stated that no fines will be issued to parents if they do not send their child to school at this time. However, the DfE says it “strongly encourages” families to take up school places – unless a child or a family member is self-isolating or if the child is particularly vulnerable due to an underlying condition. The full guidance can be found here:

Taking into account everything detailed above, you can make a decision with reasons that back-up your decision, based on the best interests of your child at this unsettling and unusual time. The Government aren’t able to give specific advice in each situation, therefore err on the side of caution and give blanket guidance for the whole population!

Overall, if you review all the aspects of your child’s care and their/your life, you can be confident that you have made an informed decision. 

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April 28, 2020

FREE Membership now extended!

We are delighted to be able to offer FREE membership trial for families at Sparkle Sheffield until September 2020!

We are giving free trials of our membership package to all eligible families. There is no cost involved in this, you will not be required to provide any payment or banking details. ** If you are already a paying member of Sparkle Sheffield, you too will receive extra months free membership at the end of your yearly subscription! **

During this time of lockdown and the uncertainty it brings, we are hosting enjoyable activities to keep our children busy! These include a weekly timetable with virtual play sessions from around the world;

  • Yoga form Seattle in the USA!
  • A puppet show from California!
  • A Visit to Coral world in St Thomas in the Caribbean! (we are also excited to be delivering autism awareness training to them when the lockdown is over)
  • Visit to a Zoo in Singapore!

We are also having play session from around the UK 

  • A bubble show from London!
  • A plant-based Cookery Demonstration from Sheffield!
  • Drama session from Sheffield!
  • Taekwondo from Sheffield!
  • Lego therapy from Sheffield!
  • Science Entertainer from Hampshire!

          And lots more…!!!

We also have an extra bedtime story session called ‘Sparkle us a bedtime’ #sparkleusabedtime where we have a mixture of our Youth Ambassadors and Celebrities reading our children a bedtime story at 7pm. 

Celebrities include our patron Adrian Lester, Hugh Bonneville, Meera Syal, Philippa Forester and Jason Manford reading stories especially for our children.

W/C 27th April 2020 home activities timetable
Puppet show in action!
Adrian Lester reading “The Problem with Problems”
Hugh Bonneville reading “The Little Island”
Meeting dolphins at Coral World in St Thomas, Caribbean

Simply email us at [email protected], requesting a free membership trial and we can give you all the information you need to sign up with us!

There is no requirement to continue with a purchased membership after the free trial, however families can sign up to our membership packages from just £20 per family, per year. 

You can find out more about what our membership packages include here…

*** Eligibility Criteria ***

Membership is applicable per household, therefore completion of the application form in full is essential with details of all relevant individuals. Application forms will be screened by Sparkle Sheffield personnel, so please ensure that they are completed with as much detail as possible.A valid email address is required upon the commencement of membership, as communications, notifications and other information will be delivered via the given email address

Evidence of additional needs will be required upon completion of the Sparkle Sheffield membership application form. This must be one of the following pieces of documentation;

  • A pathway letter (such as one from Ryegate, CAMHS or the local hospital) detailing an appointment with neurodisability, the paediatric assessments unit, or other investigating clinic or;
  • A letter detailing your/your child’s diagnosis or;
  • A letter confirming your/ your child’s entitlement to Disability Living Allowance (DLA)

If you have any questions feel free to contact us on [email protected]

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April 20, 2020

FREE Things to do during Lockdown

Click on the different link for free things to do with your children during lockdown

Click Below

Download our Covid Support Pack here:

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April 20, 2020

Sparkle Universal Alert

The Sparkle Universal Alert is a database that will be used in an emergency situation. Or in a situation where the first point of contact is important e.g surgery at a hospital, a home visit, an appointment at a doctors surgery etc

The Sparkle Alert will be available very soon!

For more information on how it works. Please watch this video.

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