Additional Needs & Disabilities

Growing Up With Additional Needs

In the early days when your child is being assessed or has a new diagnosis there can seem a lot of professionals involved in your child’s care.

As your child grows the amount of professionals tends to get less. This can be a big relief and lets you ‘get on’ with family life, but it can feel harder to know how to get the help when you need it.

There are local services to help your child and family. You do not have to feel alone. At the Norfolk Healthy Child Programme we offer support to families during pregnancy, throughout childhood and until your son or daughter reaches 19 years old. 

Dive Deeper

The Support We Offer

You can call Just One Number to talk to a health professional about any concerns at any time.  There is lots of information about the health and development of children on Just One Norfolk for all parents. You will also find some extra resources for parents of children and young people with additional needs. 

We also work closely with other providers. The Norfolk Local Offer is a directory of all services available in Norfolk for children and young people from 0-25 years with special educational needs and / or disability.

Which Nursery Or School?

Health services and Norfolk County Council work together to support your child. When it is known that a child has, or is likely to have, a special educational need or disability, a health professional can complete a form with you so that Norfolk County Council know that your child may need extra support once they start school.

This is an important first step in making sure your child gets the right support for them.

Choosing The Right Setting or School

This is a big decision. When your child has an additional need or disability it is important to feel confident the setting will meet their needs. All nurseries and schools have a responsibility to do their best to meet the needs of children with SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disability).

 You will need to feel sure that:

  • The staff are able to care for your child.
  • Your child will be happy and safe.
  • Your child will have the same opportunities as other children.
  • They will be supported to make friends.
  • Your child will be supported to reach their potential.

Give yourself time to have a look around a few nurseries / schools so that you can think about which ones feel right for your child.

  • Talk to friends and family about schools that you are considering.
  • If you know other families with children, ask them about their experience of choosing a school or nursery.
  • Talk to any professionals who know your child. Ask their views on what will help your child have a good school experience, so that you can share this with nursery or school.

What Next?

Once you have chosen the setting you think best suits your child, communication between home and school is important. Your child will probably be allocated a key worker. They will be able to really get to know your child. Let them know your child’s needs;

  • Does your child struggle in some environment? Are there some techniques that you know help them when they are struggling.
  • How do they cope with being separated from you and what helps them?
  • What support will they need at mealtimes.
  • Do they need help with toileting and what are the signs that they might ‘need to go’?

You are the expert on your child and hold a lot of information that can help them have a smooth and happy start at nursery or school. Settings will be pleased to learn from you. Sharing this knowledge with school helps them support your child from day one.


You may feel worried that your child will be more at risk of bullying because of their additional need or disability. Although bullies can focus on people they see as ‘different’ in some way, there is often not an obvious reason for why they pick on someone. There are different ways that people bully, but it is the bully who has the problem not their victim.

If you have concerns that your child is being bullied let school know as soon as you can and ask them how they will address the problem.

Read more bullying advice from Mencap


Puberty is when your body changes from being a child to a young adult. It usually starts earlier in girls than boys. In girls it can start as young as eight (but usually later), and continue until 15 or 16 years of age.

The changes happen because the body produces chemicals called sex hormones. For all young people this can be a confusing time. Children with additional needs might find it more so.

It is important to try and prepare young people for the changes. The physical and emotional effects of puberty can be more worrying if they do not know what to expect.

  • Talk to school about how they teach personal, health and relationship education and the language and resources they use to describe ‘private parts’.
  • Ask school if they have resources you can use at home too.
  • Start talking to your child before any changes begin.
  • Find simpler ways to explain puberty for your child if the way they understand things is different to their peers. See the specialist websites below.

If you think the physical and emotional changes are going to be especially challenging for your child, discuss it with school and / or health professionals involved in their care.


Friendships are an important part of life. Young people thrive when they have the opportunity to socialise and build relationships with their peers. During adolescence it is normal for young people to experiment with ‘romantic’ relationships.

This is an important part of your child’s transition to young adulthood. It is a special time but it can come as a shock to parents as they realise their ‘baby’ is growing up.

If your child has additional needs or disabilities you may have worried that this would not happen for them – it is a lovely thing to see them experiencing ‘first love’. You may also have some extra worries about this new stage and you might worry about your child being able to keep themselves safe. You might have concerns that others could take advantage of them. 

If your child has additional needs your knowledge of them, how they understand things and how they behave is a very important part of keeping them safe. Talking to them about their thoughts, feelings and consent will help them understand how to keep themselves safe.

  • If your child has a learning disability Mencap has good information on sexuality and relationships.
  • Kidpower has information on touch and consent.
  • NSPCC have simple information on consent using the PANTs campaign.

If you feel worried about your child’s ability to be safe in relationships you can talk to their school for support and advice. You can also call Just One Number to talk to a health professional.

Online Course for Parents of Children with Additional Needs

This online course is for parents with a child with additional needs. It is for parents, relatives and friends of children who may have a physical or learning disability or who may have autistic traits. This short course will help you learn about:

  • Understanding and responding to your child's feelings
  • Self-regulation & anger
  • Communication and tuning in
  • Having fun together

Sign up for FREE with access code: JON70

Find out more


Additional Needs Leaflet


Learning Disability Health Check Flyer


Learning Disability Healthcare Register


Who can Help?

You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

If your child attends school or an early years setting, talk to them about any concerns you may have, they can reassure you and / or help you find the right help.

If you are 11-19 you can text ChatHealth on 07480 635060 for confidential advice from one of our team.

For 11–25 year olds Kooth is a free, confidential and safe way to receive online counselling, advice and emotional well-being support.

To speak to other Norfolk parents and carers, you can join our online community forum below.


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