Your friends and family may find it difficult to accept that your child has different needs. This could be for a short time or they could stay in denial. You may also feel that they’re judging you as a parent. Other parents of disabled children may find it easier to understand what you’re going through.

Asking for what your child needs

People probably will not understand what you or your child need. Saying what you need should help.

Sharing web links or printing off advice on your child’s condition can also help, particularly if the people you’re talking to find it hard to accept that your child is disabled.

The more people understand, the more they can help you. Say:
  • what your child’s condition means
  • how this affects your child
  • how they can help you.
The parent of an autistic child might say:

“We’re only coming to the party for half an hour because that’s all he can manage. He gets anxious in large groups. He’ll feel more comfortable if no one speaks to him.”

“We can't just drop everything and go on holiday. The place has to be accessible, and we need to organise a carer to come to help at night. It’s weird having a stranger there, and it’s expensive.”

Talking about how you feel

Your family and friends probably do not know what it’s like being the parent of a disabled child. They may feel like they have similar challenges sometimes - maintaining a relationship or being tired. 

Examples of how things are different for parents of disabled children

“I’m scared because he keeps having fits so I cannot allow myself to sleep. I’m so exhausted from being up all night, every night.”

“I’m finding it very difficult to cope with working and all the appointments my son has. We do not know long each appointment is going to take, and it’s stressful.”

“I feel so confused - there are so many things to cope with. There’s hospital appointments, medical jargon and equipment, when all we want to do is just quietly be with our baby and have a ‘normal’ life.”

“Sometimes I find it difficult to talk to my partner. They’re in denial about our child being disabled. I feel like I have to be the one to ask all the questions, all the responsibility seems to be resting on me.”

“I’m really worried about how this will impact on us financially. There’s no way I can go back to work, I’m going to have to be a full-time carer.”

“Having a disabled child has been a real shock for us. We did not ‘ask’ for a disabled child. Please don’t tell us we have been ‘chosen’ or our child has been sent to us for a reason because we are special.”

Be prepared for people to not understand

If your family and friend ignore your child, try talking about things your child has done that you want to celebrate. This could be feeding themselves, eating something new, showing that they recognised you or communicating a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’.

People may also be too focused on their own lives. Some people can try to understand, but not everybody can. You may find that some friends or family become more distant or disappear. You may find new friends who have had a similar experience to you.

Read other parents’ advice and experiences on getting emotional support and talking to existing friends.

Find other parents with disabled children

You can find people in a similar situation by going to a support group or connecting online. This can be an important step to building a support network of people in a similar situation.

Talk to parents in our online community.
Support groups for parents.

You and your partner

You may experience different emotions at different times. Try to be honest with each other about how you feel. Make time for yourselves. Try to listen to each other and respect each other’s feelings. Try to continue some hobbies or interests if you can.

Family and friends

Often people can be uncomfortable and unsure how to respond to the news that your child has additional needs, especially if they don’t know any other children who are disabled. Try to remember your child is a child first and foremost. They need love and support. As far as possible, try to give your child the same life experiences as you would any other child.

  • Talk to friends and families about your child’s condition – the more you talk about it, the easier it will become for you.
  • Ask friends and family to babysit - even if only for half an hour while you pop to the shops.
  • Try to continue your family routines as much as possible.

Grandparents

They may also be worried and upset. Or they might even deny that anything is happening. Like you, they may be coming to terms with new emotions. Give them time to adjust. 

  • Discuss with grandparents what the professionals are telling you.
  • Grandparents may want to help with babysitting or give you and your family the occasional break from your routine. Ask them to help if they are able to.
  • Show them how to care for your child so they can help you.
  • Involve grandparents in important decisions about your child’s care and medical treatments where you can. Some may want to be involved in visits to professionals or support groups.
Read more tips for grandparents in our online community.

Contact our helpline

I found friends were more than happy to help – you just had to ask.
Parent
 

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