Something new... Helping parents out of their shells too...


Helping to implement strategies that empower parents on ways to help their child themselves. 

Offering consultations with parents in their own home or via Skype.

Helping to make everyday activities less stressful for both parent and child.

Teaching parents/carers skills on ways to deal and manage negative behaviour.

Consultations are for parents/carers of children newly diagnosed with autism, parents of children with additional needs or a diagnosis of adhd, dyspraxia, sensory processing disorder and/or behavioural difficulties. 

The consultations can be in a block of 3, 6 or 9 sessions. 

Please message me for more details.

086 3847667( in Ireland) 

+353 863847666( outside of Ireland)



Book Review by Life Upside Down, Being an Autism mom.


24 May 2016

Hey guys.
Last night I went to Dano's in Mallow for the autism friendly shopping and met with the fantastic author of the Tony the Turtle books Valerie Sheehan.... We had a great chat and she gave me some fab ideas for my book. She also very generously gave me a gift of her 6 books. They are so wonderful. This lady knows autism. Not only knows it but understands it perfectly. I usually don't say that about anyone except parents but reading the books is like reading about our life. Because Valerie worked as a home tutor she just gets it. The books were designed to help parents of autistic kids originally but now they are loved by kids and parents both. They are a series of short little stories about Tony, a turtle who sees the world differently to others and how he copes with the help of his trusty visual schedule and flash cards.
Tony goes everywhere from shopping to a party, from swimming to the playground and there is even one dedicated to Tony trying new food. A battle we are all hugely familiar with!! She even explains the hard parts of his autism by showing how Tony flaps and becomes anxious or retreats to his shell when he is overwhelmed. The stories are completely relatable to all of us.
The books are beautifully illustrated and this turtle is seriously cute...and quirky just like all of our little turtles !! I think all ages in a family could benefit from having a read. It really helps explain what autism is like.The stories are short and funny and they rhyme too which makes it quick and easy to read. Take a look at her Facebook page or website if you all are interested. I'm so glad I did.

The pictures below will give you all an idea of what the books are like. There is a few snippets from my favourite one... Tony goes swimming. For me it's like looking at Kirsty with the armbands.!!
Like I said above this lady just gets it.



What Tony is all about...


A couple of years ago I had an idea on how I could help children on the autism spectrum and their parents simultaneously. I wanted to write stories that would give children a voice and empower parents on how best they could help them.

I wanted the main character to have a shell so I could show the significance of the child coming in and out of his shell when his environment becomes too overwhelming.  My Dad's name was Tony he passed away just after the first 3 books came out. I was so thrilled that he got to see them and to know he would be forever immortalised as a turtle. So that in a little shell  is how Tony the Turtle was born.

Many children with autism have sensory processing delays which can result in the sensory signals not getting interpreted properly.  This can be very uncomfortable for the child, clothes may physically hurt their skin, lights may cause headaches, smells may cause nausea or vomiting and sounds may be deafening.    "going into your shell" can sometimes be the right option. It wont take too long to figure out what upsets or triggers your child so you can do things where possible to avoid your child getting too overwhelmed. For example, only wearing certain fabrics that don't  irritate the skin or wearing earphones if you are out and your child is bothered by the noise. (I know there will always be new triggers so you cant get too complacent)

While I encourage parents to help their child out of his/her shell, there will be times it is necessary and helpful for the child to stay in. Going into your child's world instead of always getting them to come into yours is as important as coaxing them out.

Throughout the book series you will see recurring themes all of which are great learning tools for parents to help daily activities run smoother. 

There are visual supports in all the books as I wanted to show the importance of daily schedules and First and Then charts. These visuals can increase independence and reduce anxiety. They really help children on the autism spectrum as they clearly indicate what has been completed and what must be done next. I know from my own experience that visual schedules can reduce the amount of stress, anxiety and behavioural meltdowns. 

Visuals also help the child's communication skills, they can hold his/her attention and they can make abstract concepts more concrete.

Tony uses visuals in all the stories with his day plan, First and Then chart, feelings and learning to wait his turn. Once using visuals become part of your daily routine you will see a big difference.

There are a few things for you to think about when reading each of the Tony stories,  As a parent you get to pick up some useful tips and your child has a wonderful character to identify with. I wanted to do something helpful and positive at a time that can be difficult and overwhelming. I hope everyone enjoys reading about Tony as much as I enjoyed writing about him.



The biggest compliment of all...


The biggest compliment of all...

Dear Valerie - Thanks for sending the books.  I think they will be helpful for children with autism.  You may find my book The Autistic Brain helpful.


This is the email I received from the amazing Temple Grandin after carefully orchestrating getting the Tony books into her hands. It was a bit of a case of 6 degrees of separation as I started my mission..... A friend of mine was living in Colarado, in the same area as Temple Grandin so she was my first port of call.  She then (my wonderful friend) gave them to her father in law who has a business in Fort Collins where she lives. He then passed the Tony books to his secretary who is a personal  friend of Temple. She then kindly passed them to on to Temple, she read them, sent me that wonderful, albeit short email and the rest is history. Any doubts or fears I was experiencing quickly disappeared on receiving that email. To have someone you admire and respect so much think you are doing something that will help children with autism, really is the biggest compliment of all.....


Temple Grandin



Tony featured in Evening Echo! September 2014

"There's a new hero turtle for kids"  Alex Quill discovered Tony and did a really great write up in the Evening Echo in September. " everything in the books is tried and tested and while every line has a message, it's a storybook for everyone and can appeal to all children".




Tony appears on the Late Late Toy Show!

I received an email the Thursday before the Toy Show to say that Tony the Turtle books had been selected for a mention but due to it being live tv there was no guarantee.

I didn't want to get my hopes up just in case but I gathered my nearest and dearest and we took over my Mum's house waiting with bated breath from the moment the show started. It was all very exciting but I kept saying even to be selected was enough still afraid to set my hopes too high. 

Then the book section of the show started.... You could have heard a pin drop, pizza and wine put down, all eyes on the screen... Then there it was, Ryan Tubridy holding up my books recommending them to the nation. The excited screams could have been heard from across the city, I don't think I ever felt so proud. It was very short mention like all the books but it was great. We watched it back about 10 times... 

 Since the show my little turtle is now helping children and parents across the Country and further a field. There has been a huge response and I am thrilled to being kept so busy so a huge thank you to all the Tony fans both old and new:) 


And this is how excited I am about it!!....




The Irish Examiner interviews Valerie! – April 4th, 2014

"Words to say it"

Valerie Sheehan’s insightful story books are helping children with autism — and their parents, writes Vickie Maye

As a home tutor to children with autism, Valerie Sheehan saw first hand the stress of coping with a diagnosis — for the parent and the child. 

She wanted to do something to help. So she created Tony, a little turtle with autism, a neurodevelopmental disorder affecting one in 100 children. 

Tony is a character in a new series of books, written by the 37-year-old from Carrigaline, Co Cork, for parents and children with the condition. 

Sometimes the world is too much for Tony, and he needs to hide away in his shell. His mum and dad are there to coax him out, to help him cope with a supermarket trip or a swimming lesson. 

They distract him with counting games as they queue at the checkout; they use day plans and flash cards to prepare him for what is coming next. 

Other times, they leave him alone in his shell, to enjoy his own little world. “He doesn’t always need to join us,” says Valerie. 

With a degree in Montessori education and higher diploma in social studies, Valerie discovered her passion for working with children while studying a module on special education. It was a natural progression to become a home tutor to kids with autism — she has helped more than 25 children to date make the transition to ‘big school’. 

Valerie knew she’d struck gold with Tony when one of her former students, now 10, turned to his mother and said, “Tony’s just like me”. 

“I wanted the kids to identify with the main character,” Valerie explains. “There’s so much information out there helping professionals and parents understand autism — but this can help the child as well.” 

Valerie knows her books will also support parents through “a very difficult time after the initial diagnosis”. 

So we see Tony struggle with loud noises, become overwhelmed by the bright supermarket lights — and we observe his mother’s methods for coping with challenging behaviour. (These coping strategies could equally apply to parents of neurotypical children.) 

‘At dinner,’ Valerie writes in one of the books, ‘Mum uses the FIRST and THEN chart, when encouraging Tony it helps a lot.’  

“The techniques, games and distraction methods Tony’s mum uses won’t work every time, of course,” she says. “These books aren’t a miracle — but they will help.” 

We watch Tony’s mum work to his pace — everything, even the journey to the car for a day out, is ‘slow and steady’. These are precious nuggets of advice for parents of autistic children, that will simultaneously help the child as they identify with Tony. 

Valerie also wanted the books to be positive, to show all that Tony can do and achieve. So we see him eat new food, meet new people, try different games, enjoy a play date. 

The stories capture the mind of the autistic child. In Tony Goes Swimming, she writes: ‘Now they are all packed up in the car Mum says, ‘Tony you are a star’. 

‘Don’t say that Mum it’s a lie, I don’t live up in the sky’. 

She knows these words will resonate with many parents of children with autism. Later she writes, ‘Mum loves it when Tony uses his voice’. 

Sometimes the world is too much for Tony, and he needs to hide away in his shell

The books are beautifully written in a simple and accessible rhyming format. While she has selfpublished three so far, four more are already written. 

“Tony came very easily to me. They weren’t rhyming at the beginning, but I’ve always loved rhyming books so I went back to them,” she says. 

The little poems are a large part of Tony’s appeal — but the stunning illustrations make it a perfect package. 

“Graphic artist Susan Meaney who lives in Galway came recommended to me. She said she would draw a sketch of how she saw Tony,” says Valerie, who named her main character after her father. 

“The second I saw Susan’s drawings I knew that was him. It was Tony.”  


■ The three Tony the Turtle books – Tony Goes Swimming, Tony Tries New Food and Tony Goes Shopping — are available on for €18.99, for all three. Illustrations s are underway for the fourth book.

Book aids: Valerie Sheehan with her self-published range of children’s books, featuring Tony the turtle and his family. Picture: Denis Scannell

Book aids: Valerie Sheehan with her self-published range of children’s books, featuring Tony the turtle and his family. Picture: Denis Scannell



Tony features in the Irish Independent – April 15th, 2014


"Irish autism tutor's Tony The Turtle books prove a winner with parents and children"

"Tony Goes Shopping" by Valerie Sheehan.

"Tony Goes Shopping" by Valerie Sheehan.

UPDATED 04 APRIL 2014 06:59 PM

An Irish autism tutor has penned a series of books designed to be beneficial for both children with autism and their parents.

Valerie Sheehan from Cork, has developed the character Tony the Turtle to reach out to children with Austism Spectrum Disorder.

She says the idea of the turtle came to her when she thought of how children with autism retreat into their own shells when the outside world can become too overwhelming.

"My wish is that these stories help both parent and child positively overcome some of the challenges that having ASD can introduce into everyday life," Valerie said.

"The reaction has been great. Parents have emailed me to say 'thank you, thank you'. One woman said her son loves it and he doesn't want to leave it out of his sight."

"The reason I wrote these books is, I saw how hard it is for parents especially when they hear for the first time that their child has autism."

"For parents that don't know anything about autism, this is something positive for them, instead of the heavy textbooks they might be surrounded by."

Valerie says her book is aimed as much at parents as it is at children with autism.

"There's a lesson in every page to be learned. Every sentence has a message - that's how I've designed it."

"Parents will be able to read between the lines and follow the advice."

For more information, see


Jack's Story


Jack's Story

Jack is also one of my past pupils, as you may have seen on the Home page, Jack loves reading the Tony books with his Mum.

I really enjoyed my time with Jack and watched him grow into a fabulous little boy. I am always sad to say goodbye as it’s impossible not to grow close to each child I tutor.

Jack worked very hard and made great strides in his progress and he continues to thrive in school. When I was leaving Jack gave me a card which was a photo of us both. Its things as beautiful as this that make my job worthwhile.



Why I wrote "Tony Goes Swimming"

Swimming has great benefits for all children but for children with autism it can be very calming and therapeutic. 

Many of the children I have worked with have a fear of swimming initially but most grew to love it. For some children I spent the first few sessions just dangling our feet in the water then slowly getting into the water, going from arms (at a close choking range) around my neck to gradually holding hands then floating independently with arm bands. I felt it was important to show that it can take time and patience is key.

Coming out of the comfort zone

I wanted to continue with similar themes throughout the book series so I introduced sharing in this book and will continue it in future stories. Also I have again emphasised the importance of giving a time warning before the end/start of a task or activity.

I really want parents to understand the importance of preparation in all their everyday activities. The easier life is made for a child with ASD the easier life becomes for the parents.

Have you found that your child likes or dislikes being in the water? I'd love to hear your questions or comments about swimming, it's benefits or effects. Please comment here!


Scott's Story


Scott's Story

This is Scott Walsh Murphy, a past pupil of mine, he is 9 years old and was diagnosed with autism at age 3. This is a picture of him on his Communion day playing the bodhrán in the church.

I started working with Scott at age 3 and was with him for 2 years. He went from strength to strength and I am so proud of him as I am of all the children I have tutored.

When Scott saw my first book “Tony goes Shopping” he read it himself then walked into the kitchen to his Mum and said “Mam I just read Val’s book, isn’t Tony like me”.

His Mum Rachel said to me that reading it herself reminded her of some strategies to put in place when getting Scott to complete a task. I couldn’t have got a better compliment as they both got exactly what I am trying to achieve from these stories where the child has someone to identify with and the parents learn some useful tips.


1 Comment

Why I wrote "Tony Tries New Food"

Food can be a very big issue for children with ASD and it can become very stressful for parents trying to get their child to eat. It is one of the first things parents ask for advice on. Often I have come across children only wanting to eat foods of a certain colour or smell. It is very difficult for parents as they want their children to eat properly.

This story looks at trying new food without pressure in the hope that curiosity will take over and the child will choose to try it him or herself. Many children with ASD have sensory difficulties – this means that ordinary sights, smells, tastes and touches which most people would not even think about can actually be very painful for the child.

Playing games to get used to new tastes

Through food games I believe the pressure to eat is taken away and the child gets used to being around different foods and the distraction of the games takes their mind off everything else.

In all the stories I really emphasise the importance of the visual day plan and the FIRST and THEN chart. It is a crucial part of teaching and encouraging your child to complete and be successful in tasks. I find it an invaluable tool in my teaching of children with ASD.

Have you found that particular foods are avoided by your child? What challenges have you faced around eating and cooking? Your ideas and questions are welcome.  

1 Comment


Why I wrote "Tony Goes Shopping"

Going shopping with kids can be a chore for any parent but if your child has autism a “simple" trip to the supermarket needs some planning! For one thing a child with autism often has pronounced sensory issues which can be expressed as either an extreme overreaction to sensory stimulation or an extreme under reaction to sensory stimulation.

The first story I wrote was "Tony goes shopping" as it’s very often something that parents look for help with. Through lots of trial and error, I found that distraction and staying busy in the supermarket helped a lot, especially for children who get overstimulated easily. I put these techniques into a story which I think will appeal to both parent and child. I wanted the story to help parents to realise shopping trips can be done if preparation is done. This holds true with lots of activities for children with autism.

Preparation is key

I know with my job preparation is key. Have a day plan and a First and Then chart along with your little shopping list. Prepare some games and distractions in advance: "I Spy", always reliable, or counting as it provides a sense of order. I have found counting games work well in many situations. Playing games in the shop distracts Tony and it becomes an enjoyable experience.

Shopping can be an enjoyable learning experience instead of something to fear!!

Do you have any more ideas or tips that you have found useful for shopping trips? I'd love to hear your techniques in the comments below, or any questions, please ask here.