Support for special kids

Parenting Special Children is a charity supporting families living in West Berkshire, Reading and Wokingham who have children with special needs.

The organisation was founded in 2006 by Ruth Pearse whose daughter Emily was diagnosed with Global Development Delay at 18 months old. “I remember feeling so isolated.” Ruth said. “Her problems weren’t obvious and it was a real shock. I just thought Emily was a quiet baby, I hadn’t noticed she wasn’t reaching her milestones.”

Ruth was unable to resume her career as a Primary school teacher because the family were unable to find suitable childcare for Emily.” I started looking around for something to do,” said Ruth and Parenting Special Children was the outcome.

Starting with a Positive Parenting course in 2006 Parenting Special Children have now helped more than 1,000 families. “We can be working with over 50 families a week,” said Ruth. “Many come to us as they are going through the diagnosis process or have just received their first diagnosis.”

Finding out your child has a special need can be devastating for a family. The process of finding out and coming to terms with this new knowledge can feel a bit like a bereavement. “There can be a feeling of loss and many people feel angry and sad.”

Getting information and finding out about conditions and how to help your child is very important.

“The more you understand your child’s behaviour the better it is for the whole family.” Ruth also emphasised that parents aren’t doing anything wrong as they struggle to know how to deal with their child’s emotions and behaviour. “It’s not about parenting.” she said.

Parenting Special Children currently run several services to help families.

The Diagnosis Support Service offers a one to one service of emotional and information support for parents and carers of a child or young person who has recently been diagnosed with any type of additional need or disability. The support is flexible and every supporter has a child with special needs themselves. They understand what it’s like to receive the news of your child’s diagnosis and the adjustments that the family have to make.

In 2013 a Sleep Service was launched to help carers and parents understand the reasons behind unsettled nights and night waking. . “A high percentage of children with special needs have sleep problems,” said Ruth. “Many parents and siblings are sleep deprived.”

The Sleep Team consist of two nurses and one teacher who have completed special training at Southampton’s NHS Sleep Clinic as well as being parent of children who struggled to get a good night’s sleep themselves.

The charity also hold training programmes for parents and carers: Time out for special needs, Time out from ASD and Time out from ADHD. Each course covers the top problem areas that families have to know about.

All the programmes and help provided is free of charge to the parent or carer.

Ruth is currently working with a psychiatrist on a new workshop that will deal with anxiety.

All the practitioners and supporters who work for Parenting Special Children are parents of children

with special needs themselves as well as being qualified in an area of special needs education or health provision. “We really and truly know what it’s like.” said Ruth.

If you would like to find out more about Parenting Special Children take a look at their website.

There will be a fundraising event at The Harris Gardens Open Day, Reading University, RG6 6UR on September 14. The gardens are open between 2pm and 5-30pm. Enter the campus via Pepper Lane or off the A327 Shinfield Road.

The charity are holding their AGM on Thursday October 23 at 6.45pm to 8.30pm, Reading College, Room B100, Kings Road, RG1 4HJ when Dr Fiona Knott will be speaking about Anxiety and Autism.

You can support the work financially here.  Until October 14 any donations will have match funding so a £10 donation will equal £20, plus gift aid.

If you have a child with special needs Contact a Family are an organisation that work with Parenting Special Children and other organisations to help children with disabilities live life to its full potential. Their website is at

Emily Pearce, the inspiration behind
Parenting Special Children