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Avril Webster

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Avril Webster is on The Afternoon Show to talk about her series of books called Off We Go! which are known to be beneficial for children with learning difficulties.

OFF WE GO! has released 6 more books (12 in total) in October 2009.

Avril Webster - author and creator of Off We Go!

Avril's son Stephen was born premature. When she gave birth she was also in intensive care. At 4 months old he was admitted to Temple Street with bronchitis. But the doctors noticed that there was something more serious going on. They told Avril that they believed he was brain damaged.

Stephen has had loads of tests - brain scans have shown no brain damage but he still is affected. He has had metabolic tests and genetic tests too.

Avril had a busy job in the computer industry but gave it up when she found out that Stephen had learning difficulties. There is no formal name for his condition but he shares similarities with autism and downsyndrome.

He has sensory problems he can't drown out background noises. Avril and Robert's entire family use the books to communicate with Stephen.

Stephen has gone on to win a medal at the special Olympics.

According to speech and communication therapy website - "Learning with visuals - using visuals often works well with individuals with autism. Visuals can help individuals understand and learn. Many children with autism use a visual timetable at school or visual schedule to explain a sequence of events. Others respond well to social stories. These are stories in word and/or picture form that may explain why we do certain things, how to react in certain situations, or why something is going to be different or change. Social stories are often a good way to warn a child that there will be a change in routine and will help avoid upset or inappropriate behaviour.

Systems of communication - most individuals with autism will communicate given the right systems and opportunities. One of the most common systems of communication is the picture exchange communication system (PECS) which is often a great way to get children on the spectrum to initiate and request. This system can be used with both verbal and non-verbal individuals and has a number of other visual strategies within the programme that can facilitate understanding, communication and behaviour".


The first books are:
Off We Go: Swimming, Dentist, Restaurant, Supermarket, Hairdresser and Doctor.

The Second round of books are called:
Off We Go: Going to buy Clothes, Going to buy Shoes, Going to the Cinema, Going to a birthday party, going on a plane and going to the Optician. They have been released this week.

Why did you call them Off We Go?
I called them Off We Go - we are trying to do everyday stuff and we are trying to support him and our family.

I started the books as I wanted to help my son.

What Levels can the books be used?
. As a normal story book
. As a preparation tool : explain to the child about e.g. going to the hairdressers
. To promote communication and language development.
. The books make him more independent. It would be wonderful - that he could know the sequence in time.
. They are also good for foreign children who have moved to Ireland - it

Where can you get the books?
They are available across the country in good book shops. You can also get them on my website

Nationwide are covering an event we are holding. It is a concert held in the University Concert Hall in Limerick. It's a positive event for these children to showcase their talents. These kids are all part of our communities and they have wonderful talents.

Stephen is performing a drum solo at the event. The aim of this is to appeal to mothers out there who has a child with learning difficulties who will see the show and we want to show her it is not the end of the world. There still is lots of Joy. It's all about getting out and about and making life easier for the families. To let them know there are good things and everyone has a place in our society.

Reviews of Off We Go!

"Routine and structure are really important for small children. Predictability always reduces anxiety and so the more children know about what to expect the easier they find things and usually the less tantrums they have. The Off We Go series of books provide a great, visual and easily understood, explanation of what to expect from a range of daily-life activities. These books will be helpful for any young child, not just those with special needs, to give them a better sense of what to expect and thereby reduce any anxiety. Because the books are designed to be read with your child it provides a good opportunity for warm interaction and could be a spark for lots of discussion - we all need opportunities like these to build strong relationships with our children."
David Coleman - Clinical Psychologist

"This set of books represents a valuable resource for parents and professionals
concerned with children with special needs."
Dr. Frank Houghton PhD, MPHe, MA MSc The Irish Psychologist, April 2009


Off We Go prices: 1 book is €7.99, Set of 6 books is €39.99 (1 book free), All 12 books together is €69.99 (3+ books free) from