Adolescent Tightrope toolkit, videos and extras

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Want to engage young people in open discussions about their circumstances and future goals?

Regardless of a young person’s presenting needs the Adolescent Tightrope offers a holistic approach in practice

Supporting current approaches of trauma informed practice, Signs of Safety®, GoodLives, Desistance Theory and Motivational Interviewing the toolkit is based on an analogy that being a teenager and moving into adulthood can be like walking on a Tightrope and supports an open discussion to reflect on key areas within assessments and plans:

Download Adolescent Tightrope

The latest version was uploaded 22 January 22

Evidence based direct work tool

The toolkit is drawn from research on adolescent risks (youth offending, self-harm, substance misuse and exploitation) and research on resilience and social capital. The toolkit includes:

Reviews - from practitioners

“I got more in that tightrope in one session than I’d done in 10 weeks working with the young person”
Wandsworth Locality Youth Work Manager (working with CSE and gangs)

“[Young people] have been able to identify intentions and motivations which they hadn’t previously.”
Practitioner in Lambeth Youth Offending Service

“[Young people] can see what’s going wrong and the patterns…They can identify better choices…It’s visual and they get it.”
Feedback from young people and workers in Wandsworth

“What a can of worms (information) in 10 years I have not managed to gain so much info in one session using such an effective assessment tool. Wow…..”
Bail and Remand Officer in Hammersmith and Fulham

Download Printable cards

The cards in the guidance workbook can be printed from the workbook or collectively from here so you can print off, cut out and laminate each card, or page of cards. There are also mats that have all the cards from each area together.

Hardcopy toolkit

If you or your team want the hardcopy toolkit with 8 sets of printed cards and two printed pads with the template form to complete, then a few sets are still available to purchase from here.


Tightrope doodle summary - for young people

This video provides a summary of the Tightrope for young people

Adolescent Brain Development - and how to respond with trauma informed practice

When training workers on the tightrope and Adolescent Development, I will refer to Emotional Development, Trauma Informed Practice and Tranactional Analysis. I will provide the following worksheet and ask workers to look at the behaviours on the far right column and consider if they have seen these in the adolescents or adults they are working with. The behaviours correspond to an emotional age and to a developmental stage of needing to learn certain scripts in regard to feeling wanted, loved, safe and good enough. The far right column provides statements from Transactional Analysis that are powerful ways to connect and calm another’s overwhelm. Emotional Development Worksheet

The following video provides a more detailed doodle summary about adolescent development and how to respond using emotional development and transactional analysis theories in practice

Out of court format

For Youth Justice practitioners an Out of Court Disposal template has been created and is available here: OOCD Screening Template 2019.pdf

Workbook for parents

The original use of the tightrope analogy was with parents whose children were open to the Youth Justice service. Using research about supporting parents of adolescents, a basic homemade workbook was created called the Circus Act that supports parents to work through exercises that are based on the circus:

For more information email: [email protected]

“To be left alone on the tightrope of youthful unknowing is to experience the excruciating beauty of full freedom and the threat of eternal indecision.” Maya Angelou