The Minister for Children, Disability, Equality, Integration & Youth, Roderic O’Gorman, launched the first in the world, evidence-based parenting programme for parents of adolescents – the Parents Plus Special Needs Programme.

Speaking at the event, the Minister explained “parents are absolutely essential to everything that we do as a country to support families with disabilities. The Parents Plus Special Needs Programme is a momentous piece of work that will have real benefits for families with children with special needs. Parents Plus have a strong track record and really impressive results delivering positive outcomes for families. As we come out of the pandemic, the support of this new programme is needed now more than ever. This will make a real difference to family lives on a daily basis.”

Dr. Michael Byrne, National Disability Children and Families Team, H.S.E., spoke at the launch and explained, “We need interventions that work, tools that help parents better manage. Parents Plus have been very consistent in exposing themselves to constant evaluation which is for the betterment of all. It is more appropriate to develop interventions locally and that is why I believe the Special Needs Programme is so powerful. It is developed with communities and professionals, to support families. It is strengths based, solution focused. We need to treat parents as partners, having shared authority. This is family centred practice. The Parents Plus Special Needs Programme is needed and reflects the principles of Progressing Disability.”

Parents who attended the pilot of the PPSN also spoke at the launch and shared their experiences. “It is a constant fight for your child. This course is truly truly invaluable. For all services listening, please look into training in this course. There are so many families who need this course now.”

“Services need to train in this programme and provide it to parents early on in their journey. Early on. Not when it’s too late.”

“Parents are constantly fighting for services for their child with special needs. This course can be run by two facilitators, can reach so many more families and costs significantly less. More services need to run it.”

“I would say to anyone, do the Parents Plus Special Needs programme. This will help you support your family, support your child, support yourself. We should have had this Parents Plus programme 12 years ago.”

“I went along initially to complain about not getting services for my child. The secret turned out to be to sit in a room with parents who know what you have been through. You could say what you wanted. We all understood.”

“Professionals coming into your home doesn’t work. It makes you more isolated. This Parents Plus Special Needs Programme works – Being in a room with parents, somebody to listen to you.”

“The course is invaluable. There’s a wealth of knowledge available. When faced with a diagnosis, Parents Plus courses should be offered to help parents on their journey. If parents are empowered with the right information this will help parents. This should happen early.”

Dr Charlotte Wilson, Trinity College Dublin, who oversaw the RCT of the PPSN added, “We know internationally there has never been a randomised controlled trial of a programme like this. The Parents Plus Special Needs Programme, the first undergoing a randomised controlled trial, fills the massive gap in service provision in Ireland. This Programme provides access for parents to expert information, from professionals facilitating the group, the manuals, information from other parents. This matters to families. They are no longer alone.”

Professor John Sharry, “The programme has three strands – Supporting the needs of the child with special needs – Supporting the needs of siblings – Supporting the needs of parents. This is crucial. Of our seven evidence-based interventions, this has been the most moving and emotional programme to develop. We need to acknowledge how much these families need and deserve our support. We want to empower services to be more family centred. We must listen to parents and work in partnership with them. Parents need us now more than ever.”

You can watch the launch event on the Parents Plus website.