Photos from early 1990's

Beyond Words – 25 years of helping people communicate

In the 1980s Professor Sheila Hollins looked for pictures to help people with developmental learning disabilities to understand their feelings following trauma. Almost nothing was available. Children’s picture books were on offer, but they could not help people talk about or understand adult feelings and adult experiences.

Sheila had noticed how much pleasure her teenage son, who had a learning disability, got from silent movies and children's picture books. She had also found that by drawing pictures she could help her son to understand and prepare for what was happening in his life and that this reduced his anxiety.  She decided that she would put picture books together herself and publish them. She began work with her son, illustrator Beth Webb, and psychiatrist Dr Lester Sireling. Our first books, When Mum Died and When Dad Died, published in 1989 are still going strong today.

Books Beyond Words is now an award-winning series published by Beyond Words and edited by Professor Hollins. Professor Hollins is also the lead author for most of the series, and each book is co-authored by senior experts in the field. Forty five titles have been published since 1989, and all have been co-produced with people who find pictures easier than words, with family carers, support staff and professionals.

As well as picture books, Beyond Words also offers:

  • regular workshops about how to use the books
  • bespoke training for organisations
  • help with setting up a local book club
  • eBooks and translations of our supporting text in several languages.

Beyond Words is a small not-for-profit social enterprise set up in 2011. We are a spin out from St. George’s University of London where our Executive Chair, Baroness Hollins is Emeritus Professor of the Psychiatry of Disability.

The Books Beyond Words series has been helping people to understand their world since 1989.