Empowering Parents and Carers

The Wicklow Primary Healthcare Centre, and the Children’s Disability Network Team Mid-Wicklow (CDNT6) have been at the forefront of delivering the Parents Plus Special Needs Programme since it was launched in September 2020  

The Parents Plus Special Needs Programme was developed to enable professionals to effectively support parents of children with special needs to:

  • Manage behaviour and emotional problems
  • Deal with puberty, sexuality and relationships
  • Reduce their own stress as parents
  • Support all relationships in the family
  • Build self-esteem and confidence
  • Advocate for their child or adolescent
  • Support education and development
  • Prepare their child for adulthood and future transitions

This initiative supports the empowerment of parents and carers of children with special needs, offering individual pre-group meetings, seven group sessions, and continued support post-programme..

The facilitation team, Elsabé de Villiers, Senior Educational Psychologist, Susan Kaup Senior Speech and Language Therapist, and Julie Bunworth, Senior Social Worker shared their reflections on the programme’s impact.

“The dedication and engagement of parents and carers in this programme is nothing short of remarkable. Their willingness to deeply engage with the programme and each other, investing time, emotional energy, and a commitment to integrating new strategies into their lives, has been a cornerstone of the programme’s success.” 

They went on to highlight the interest and commitment of parents and carers attending the programme, noting the ease and comfort with which participants connect, share their journeys and sincerely engage with each other’s experiences. This collaborative and supportive environment has been key to the shared learning among participants.

The programme takes a tailored approach to meeting the individual goals and needs of the parents and families involved. A pre-course meeting was arranged to discuss the Special Needs Programme with each parent. At this meeting, each parent chose four goals for their family- usually two goals for their child/children and two goals for themselves as parents to work towards during the course. The facilitator’s role in delivering the Special Needs Programme was explained at this pre-course meeting. Facilitators present information about two topics each week and each parent decides which tools and strategies to try out with their family during the course. The facilitator’s role each week is to build each parent’s confidence as they work towards the goals they choose for their family. Feedback from attendees has highlighted the solidarity that develops between parents, and the focus on self-care to enhance overall well-being. 

As we look to the future, the Parents Plus facilitators on CDNT6 in Wicklow have identified opportunities in delivering the programme, for example, enabling both parents to attend by running groups online and exploring alternative formats like setting up a group for fathers and including those who may not feel comfortable in a group setting by completing the PPSN Programme with some parents on an individual basis.

Our programmes combine a social learning model with a solution-focused preventative framework that encourages and empowers parents, young people, and children to ‘take charge’ and make positive changes in their lives

Parents Plus trains and supports over 800 professionals as facilitators each year throughout Ireland, the UK and internationally.

Our bespoke train-the-trainer model ensures that professional service providers are best equipped to improve the lives of thousands of families and young people in a variety of settings, including family resource centres, child and adolescent mental health clinics; and disability services, childcare centres and preschools; primary and secondary schools; and child protection agencies.

Trained professionals include teachers, social workers, speech and language therapists, psychologists, family support workers, public health nurses, occupational therapists, psychiatrists, childcare workers, mental health workers, health promotion officers and community Workers.

To learn more about our programmes please visit our website at https://www.parentsplus.ie/parents-plus-programmes/ or email our Impact Lead Vicki Byrne at vicki@parentsplus.ie

A Case Study from Northumberland County Council

In the North-East of England four Local Authority and County Council areas, including Northumberland, South Tyneside, Newcastle, and Gateshead, have come together as a region to avail of training in and rolling out the Parenting When Separated programme under the RPC, through Early Help and Family Hubs.