Special Branch


The Special Branch Programme is for children with special needs.  These children have a range of special and complex needs which can include life limiting illnesses, neurological conditions, children on the autistic spectrum, children in palliative care or children who suffer from dementia.

The Clowndoctors use an approach that is centred on the person to enhance the sensory experience of the child. We use character clowning and the performing arts as a starting point.

Children in hospital, hospice or residential care often experience a range of complex issues alongside their medical condition or disability, such as:

In respite units for children with complex special needs and in children’s hospices, we visit the children in living room areas and sometimes in their own rooms; it depends what the staff request when they make the individual referrals. Sometimes, we are asked to see children on their own for personal development reasons or because staff consider an individual visit will be more beneficial due to the child’s particular needs. Often, it helps them communicate and process better and in the longer term, has greater benefits for their health, mental and emotional wellbeing. These include:

  • Access to performing arts and musical activities to children with a range of special and complex needs
  • An outlet for relief, creativity and artistic expression for the children and their families
  • Participating children can become empowered and feel in control as regular visits over extended periods of time (sometimes years) can create a long-term impact for the child, family and staff

Our Special Branch Units are:

  • Barnardo's Caern Project (Edinburgh)
  • Calareidh Respite Unit (Edinburgh)
  • Rachel House – CHAS (Kinross)
  • Robin House – CHAS (Balloch)
  • Sunndach Respite Unit (Livingston)