Disabled children and their families

Getting help

You are not alone.

Help can come from:

  • support services used by families with children who need more or different help than other children the same age
  • family, friends and other families with children with disabilities
  • local networks to help parents with young children to get in touch with each other and meet up.

Your doctor, health visitor or hospital specialist may be the first person you meet who can refer you to places where you can get more help. It might be difficult to know what help you need until you have a diagnosis. Services could include:

  • speech therapy
  • physiotherapy
  • occupational therapy

You know best

Parents know their children best, so if you have concerns about your child’s development, whether that be the way they are acting, walking, communication or developing, then you need to speak to someone like your doctor.

You may recognise signs, such as your child not meeting the key milestones you are expecting, like sitting up, walking or talking. If so, then talk to your health visitor.

Remember that all children develop at different speeds so, for example, if your child has an older brother or sister who was walking by their first birthday, it doesn't mean that your second child will do the same. It doesn't mean they have a disability. Be persistent if your worries continue, however, and go back to your doctor. Don’t be put off.


It may be hard to know which type of help and support you can need until you get a diagnosis. You might have a diagnosis during your pregnancy or it might be much later that you notice signs that your child needs help, or that a problem is developing. If you are worried in any way then remember that support is out there. You are not alone.

The needs of your child will not change if you have a diagnosis - your child still has needs that must be met. A diagnosis will help as it gives you answers and can provide you with more information on the type of care and support you can get.

Types of support

Every child and family is different and will need different types of support. The support you need may also change over time - what helps in the early days will be different from what you need later on. Additional support services are used by families with children who need more or different help than other children the same age.

Services provided for every family in Thurrock are sometimes called Universal Services - for example, the standard support provided by doctors and health visitors for families with newborn babies.

Statutory services are the services that we, along with other organisations must provide by law and usually include health, education and social care. We work with health services to coordinate our support.

Children’s Centres are part of the Universal Services provided for all families. They are places where children and their families receive education, childcare, family support, health services and support with employment and where families can access help from multi-disciplinary teams of professionals. Some Children’s Centres provide support for children and parents with special needs, including children with additional support needs associated with a disability.

Services we provide especially for families and children with disabilities are called Specialist Services.

The Sunshine Centre has outreach services that provide help and support for families and children at home. Other services for young children with learning difficulties or disabilities have been organised in this way for a long time. Young children who are deaf, have a visual impairment or multi-sensory impairment are particularly likely to receive regular support at home from advisory teachers with specialist knowledge and experience in the first few years of life.

Other families with young children can be a good source of information about the services provided. They can tell you a lot about what they enjoy doing as a family and pass on their experience of what’s accessible and safe for young children, including those who have difficulty getting about or with communication. There are local networks to help parents with young children to get in touch with each other and meet up. Ask the people working with your family and child about groups like this in your area.

Someone to help you

If you’re meeting lots of different people who are trying to help, it can be overwhelming and hard to make sense of what’s happening. Where a child has multiple additional needs and is being supported by more than one agency, you will get a Lead Professional who will be a single point of contact for you, and can support you in making choices and navigating your way through the system.