“You're not alone” - help, support and advice for parents of special-needs children

PUBLISHED: 08:30 17 April 2019 | UPDATED: 11:23 17 April 2019

Emma and David Hannaford with Ellie aged 7 and Harry who is 3. Ref mhc 16 19TI 2587. Picture: Terry Ife

Emma and David Hannaford with Ellie aged 7 and Harry who is 3. Ref mhc 16 19TI 2587. Picture: Terry Ife

Archant

Members of new support group will share advice and information, and no-one will feel they are having to cope on their own

A Cranbrook mother of two children with special educational needs is setting up a support group for other parents in a similar position.

Emma Hannaford has been overwhelmed by the response after setting up a Facebook group on Wednesday, April 10. The group already has 26 members.

The first meeting of CAN (Cranbrook Additional Needs Support Group) will take place at 10.45am on Friday, April 19 at Emma's home, and will be a chance for parents to talk about what they want from the group.

Emma herself had to leave her job and learn how to adapt to two children with different additional needs. Her daughter Ellie was diagnosed with autistic tendencies at the age of three, while Emma was pregnant with her son Harry. A scan showed there was a high chance of him having Down's syndrome – which turned out to be the case. Ellie is now aged seven, and Harry is three.

“When you talk to people in our situation, it's scary that there's not enough support out there,” she said. “You're given the diagnosis and then you're expected to do things yourself and just get on with it, which is difficult, and parents become isolated and withdrawn because they don't know who to talk to, who to ask, where to go.”

The support group will share information about education, benefits and the professional help available. Above all, Emma wants parents of children with additional needs to feel they are not having to cope alone.

Emma's GP and the Cranbrook Patient Participation Group have praised the initiative and said they had been aware of the need for it for some time. “I've tapped into something that was already on their minds, but they weren't sure how to go about it,” she said. “Whereas I'm the perfect person to moderate it because I'm that parent, with those children.”

Cranbrook's schools have welcomed the new group, and Exeter Airport has also come out in support, offering special tours for autistic children to familiarise them with check-in and security procedures, and extra help from cabin crew during flights.

“Our children are amazing and us parents are amazing too,” said Emma, “but we do need support and I hope this group will help us find it.”

For details contact Emma on 07890 494 402 or via the Facebook group. https://www.facebook.com/groups/275286860051891/

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