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What is Riding the Rapids?

Riding the Rapids is a high quality, evidence-based course for parents. It is designed for parents and carers of children and young people who are autistic or have significant learning disabilities.

There are two versions of Riding The Rapids aimed at either Primary school or Secondary school aged children. The training course covers the content for both groups.

Riding the Rapids aims to support parents to develop their understanding of their child's needs, helping them to promote their child's and their own well-being, to make suitable adjutments to situations their child may struggle with to make them more accessible, reducing distress and to improve the quality of life of their child and family. families.

The course consists of 10 weekly sessions followed by a booster session 3 months later. Delivered in a group format, it is cost-effective and provides parents with the opportunity to meet and think together with other parents in similar circumstances.

The course enables parents to understand their child’s distress related behaviours in the context of their neurodivergence, and apply strategies and adjustments to support them. It also helps parents to develop stress management strategies and confidence in supporting their child’s. The course is collaborative, so that parents develop tools they can take with them and continue to apply once the intervention is complete.

Riding the Rapids differs from other parenting groups as it is applicable to children with a range of needs, and has been adapted to meet the needs of particular groups of children with additional needs


Riding the Rapids was independently evaluated as part of a Department of Education funded study:

Managing Behaviour and sleep problems in disabled children: An investigation into the effectiveness and costs of parent-training interventions (2012) Beresford et al, Department for Education Research Report DFE-RR204

A full report of this study can be located at: HERE

Changes to children’s behaviour and parents’ sense of competence were compared for parents attending Riding the Rapids and a waiting list control group. The findings were that:

  • Parents made significant progress in attaining their goals for their child at the end of the course and at follow-up
  • Parents were more satisfied in their parental role, and this was maintained 6 months after the end of the course
  • Parents reported their children showing fewer stress-related behaviours after attending the course, and at 6 month follow up

Parent feedback

'It’s been brilliant – so much taught in such a fun way’

‘Wonderful – every session is so helpful’

‘Have really enjoyed being in the group, everyone supporting each other, you’re not on your own’

‘I have learnt so much – I will miss it’

‘(I am)..realising how far he has come and how much calmer I am

“I really enjoyed all the course, felt it has helped me to be a better mother and a more confident mother.”

Becoming a Riding the Rapids facilitator

Professionals can become a Riding the Rapids facilitator by attending a 3 day training course with Encompass Psychology Ltd and receiving a licence to run Riding the Rapids courses.

The course covers content for both the Primary and Secondary school age Riding The Rapids courses. All facilitators receive a course manual and access to parent handouts and oter course materials. Potential facilitators should already have a sound understanding of behavioural theory and principles, in addition to experience of working with children with disabilities and their families. This ensures that the quality of the intervention is protected and maintained.

Facilitators could therefore come from the following professional backgrounds:

  • Clinical and Educational Psychologists
  • Learning Disability Nurses
  • Mental Health Practitioners
  • Teachers in specialist roles/ provisions
  • Specialist Social Workers
  • Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists
  • Speech and Language Therapists

We welcome queries from professionals from other backgrounds.

Please see the 'Training Courses' section for further information.


Riding the Rapids is the intellectual property of Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust.