The SEND parent

About SEND parents

The parents of kids with Specific Needs, or Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), have all the same duties of other parents but often it is not straightforward.

It is important to recognise that there are going to be things that the parents of children with specific needs may have to do or consider that other families do not. Every family’s list is different and the list below will not be complete but it gives an idea.

>buy food

  • Child might only eat specific foods, or even brands!
  • Some children need speciality foods.
  • Some children’s food needs to be screened for allergens.
  • Problems with food supply, such as shortages during Covid 19 lockdowns, can cause significant problems for some with special dietary requirements.

>provide meals

  • Child might only eat food prepared in a certain way
  • Child might need specialty food
  • Child might have to eat at set times
  • Food might have to be stored and prepared separately

> clean the house

  • Some children might need their things sterilised
  • Their behaviour might cause additional mess
  • Objects might need to be placed in exact positions to avoid confusion or distress
Image shows a blue character, head in hands and crying. They are surrounded by the same icons denoting jobs that the previous image of a parent showed: washing machine, shirt, soap, ambulance, mop and bucket, shopping bag, book, tray of food, car, medicine and money but the icons have shadows - the same icons in a lighter colour plus some additional ones, nappies, an empty plate, a drinks bottle, calendars/planners, clocks and egg timers - all indicating the additional roles and strains on a parent of a child with additional needs.

>clean the kids

  • Older children might continue to need assistance for washing
  • Specialist soaps might be needed
  • Dressings or tubes might have to be kept dry during bathing

>transport the kids

  • Some children are limited to one type of travel: e.g. they might need a specialised vehicle or seat, or a child may only get on a train or in cars of a specific colour.
  • A parent might have had to battle to get transport or a mobility/ disability badge
  • Specialist schools or hospitals can be far
  • Time spent travelling can be many hours

>pay the bills

  • Parents of disabled children face extra costs every month and these can be significant. Things like medicines, therapies, doctors’ visits, specialist foods, medical supplies, nappies, transport, can be unaffordable.
  • Parents may have to complete long and complicated application forms for physical or therapeutic support
  • Parents may have to complete long and complicated applications forms for financial help or benefits

>provide clothing

  • Clothing may have to be adapted for the child
  • Clothing may have to fit over adult nappies or medical items like stoma bags, central lines and feeding tubes
  • Special fastenings, like velcro might be needed to allow child to dress themselves
  • Child may be sensitive to certain fabrics on their skin

>clean clothing

  • A child who is incontinent may need their clothes washed more frequently
  • A child with poor coordination may dirty their clothes more frequently

>deliver health services

  • Monitor and administer daily medicines
  • Deliver daily therapies, such as physio and speech
  • Encourage child to attend appointments
  • Transport to appointments for check ups
  • Transport to appointments for medical procedures
  • Transport to appointments for routine assessments
  • Comfort child when having to undergo examinations, procedures and therapies
  • Explain to child about examinations, procedures and diagnoses
  • Chase up appointments for diagnoses, scans, procedures, therapies
  • Chase up prescriptions and delivery of medicines


  • A child with poor attention needs entertaining constantly
  • Children in hospital need distracting
  • Children waiting for appointments need entertaining
  • Children waiting or going through treatment need distracting


  • Children in hospital need cuddles
  • Children waiting for appointments need calming
  • Children waiting or going through treatment need comforting
  • Even when a parent might need comforting themselves……

Additional stress

Not every parent that has a child with specific needs is stressed but they frequently have a lot of additional duties and pressure. Simple things, like preparing a meal, can take two, three times as long as it would take in a household where everyone can and will eat everything. Household costs will be increased if special foods or medicines need to be bought. If your child needs to attend lots of appointments may mean a parent will have to take time off work, or they may not be able to work at all as finding a flexible job can be hard. Just one of these things can add to the workload a parent has. Often a family faces more than one of the issues raised above.

There is also the anxiety a parent may feel over their child’s future, worries that they may be bullied, fear that they will get an infection or their condition will worsen or reoccur…..Worries and concerns such as these can have a significant impact on a parent’s mental health and mood.


These additional duties are often just part of every day life for parents of children with specific needs, but it can be a lot. Parents might be too tired to remember homework, they might not want to stop and chat, they might even react angrily when you are just trying to help. Understanding this means you can better talk to the parents of your pupils.

2 blue characters standing. A small child is screaming, her eyes are closed, mouth is wide open and her fists are clenched by her sides. The parent is standing next to her with their head in their hand, eyes closed and a tear running down their cheek.

Key Learning Points

~Parents of children with SEND frequently have to deal with additional medical, behavioural and household duties on top of the usual parenting activities.

~Parents of children with SEND are often tired and stressed due to these additional pressures. 

~ Finding out a little more about the pressures a parent is facing, can help you communicate better with them.

Discussion Points

~Imagine this is your day – how exhausted are you feeling now?  

~ How might this affect your mood?

Scroll to Top