Back to Families blog

Setting up their own autism service, how we supported a group of parents in Liverpool

What do you do if you believe your child, who has autism, would benefit from modern Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) but there is no provision in the area? You set up your own!

Behaviour Analyst, Marianne Wooldridge, blogs.
Behaviour Analyst, Marianne Wooldridge, blogs.

In 2015, Dimensions supported a parent-led Saturday school set up to provide Early Intensive Behavioural Intervention to a group of children in Liverpool. Here they concentrate on group skills, social skills, play skills and communication.

One of the pupils, 10 year old Harry, had no way to communicate when he started with ABA. He would self harm and hit others in frustration.

Harry now has a range of functional, self help and academic skills. To his parents’ excitement he can now also babble – the start of speech.

Focus Liverpool was set up by a group of parents for their own children in Liverpool and, following a set of outstanding outcomes, the idea is fast catching on elsewhere.

Liverpool will be starting its third cohort in March 2016. New groups have launched in Manchester and South London, with further groups planned for Yorkshire, Bridgend and West London.


As Dimensions’ Consultant Behaviour Analyst, I provide the clinical support from the start, alongside two MSc students. To keep costs down, and make the programme sustainable, we trained a wider group of student volunteers in the principles of ABA who then worked with the children 1:1.

The 20 children, grouped according to their social readiness, attended the Saturday school for four hours per week for 12 weeks.

Parents built invaluable peer support networks and all their children made measurable progress, (assessed using the The Behavioural Language Assessment Form, Sundberg & Partington, 1998).

Progress highlights

  • 80% of the children made progress with requesting and engaging in independent activity.
  • The average increase in requesting was by 61.5 requests per four hour session.
  • 65% of children made progress with imitation skills, making transitions and completing an activity with a peer.
  • 50% of children made progress with responding to instruction and turntaking.
  • 35% of children made progress with ball skills and responding to their name.


For me, the real success of the project is best expressed by the parents and their children:

“Our son loved his time at focus and his social skills have improved tremendously. It was wonderful to spend time with other parents, and have the benefit of guest speakers during the sessions too”.

“Our son has thoroughly enjoyed his time at the Saturday Focus group. He has made new friends, has enjoyed his time with them and has learned how to bond with them. The teacher has noticed the improvement at school. It has allowed us as parents to learn more about ABA. Since we have started a programme, our family life has greatly improved. It has been an invaluable for us and for him.”

“Our son gained so much from Focus ABA. Not only did he learn new skills, he also improved socially. We can’t speak highly enough of the benefits of ABA Focus.”

Applied Behaviour Analysis

Applied Behaviour Analysis continues to generate bad press in some corners of the media, but modern applications of the technique bear little resemblance to the past. It isn’t right for every child and family but done well, it is making an outstanding difference to young lives.

Find out more about Dimensions Autism Behaviour Consultancy

To find out more about the Focus Liverpool project visit