3rd June 2005 at 01:00

Melanie Cross has written a highly competent and useful book on a complex, diverse and important topic.

Many pupils with behavioural problems, and others with poor communication skills, endure the process of education without accurate diagnosis. As a result, they lack appropriate support, and have no one in their lives who fully understands their needs.

They are unable to access the school or college curriculum, making education a bewildering, frightening and impoverishing experience. This further damages their emotional and psychological well being, while exacerbating their difficulties coping with adult life, their employment prospects and their ability to make and sustain meaningful relationships.

Such young people are not easy to parent, and a disproportionate number of looked after pupils have communication and behavioural difficulties.

This book methodically examines behavioural and communication difficulties, and recognises that there are no simple answers, since every pupil has an unique cocktail of strengths and weaknesses.

Successful diagnosis and remedial strategies must call on a wide range of formal and informal assessments, including the collation of data and observations from a wide range of professional and key workers.

It is not all bleak. The author demonstrates compassion and understanding for these complex pupils, providing helpful, practical, advice and guidance for the adults who can give them essential support and understanding.

Alan Robertson

Head, Moor House school, Oxted, Surrey

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