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Special Needs Programme

Parents of children with special needs face significant challenges, especially when trying to navigate the adolescent years.  With the right tools, you can support parents to positively manage and overcome these difficulties, and improve the wellbeing of everyone in their family.”

Through training in the evidence-based Parents Plus Special Needs Programme, you will learn how to equip parents to positively manage the many additional challenges and isolation that are common for parents of adolescents with an intellectual disability. 

During the solution focused training, you will also learn how to support parents to build positive relationships with their adolescent and strengthen links with other parents and essential support systems in the communities in which they live.

In particular you will learn how to support parents to

  • Understand the journey of parenting an adolescent with special needs
  • Manage behaviour and emotional problems
  • Advocate for their child or adolescent
  • Support all relationships in the family
  • Prepare their child for adulthood and future transitions
  • Deal with puberty, sexuality and relationships
  • Support education and development
  • Building self-esteem, confidence and self-worth
  • Reduce their own stress as parents

The Special Needs Programme is suitable for parents who are raising an older child or adolescent with a mild, moderate or severe intellectual disability.  The older child or adolescent may also have an additional diagnosis, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or a physical disability. See here for more information on who the Special Needs programme is for.

‘There is nothing like this available to families caring for an adolescent with special needs.  Parents feel that they can’t ask anyone questions relevant to the needs of their teenager.  They feel lost in their community.   As a professional who delivers the Parents Plus programmes, I know and see the value that these interventions bring to families.  The Special Needs Programme will show families affected by intellectual disability that their family and their futures are really valued.  That they matter.’

Gina Grant, Down Syndrome, Donegal

At the end of the two day training, you will have gained the skills and learning essential to achieving best outcomes for the children and families that you work with.

At Parents Plus, we understand the needs of professionals working with parents and children in a variety of disability, educational, clinical and community settings, and so our expert led training will give you the knowledge and skills to focus on parental strengths, parent led solutions and positive partnerships. 

Whether you work in a disability, educational, community or clinical setting, by day two you will be confident in your ability to facilitate the solution focused Special Needs Programme with parents.


Your 2-day training will focus on

  • Developing an in-depth understanding of the Special Needs Programme and the additional challenges that parents of adolescents with an intellectual disability experience
  • Learning how to deliver the programme to groups and individual families 
  • Opportunities to observe and practice the skills necessary to become an effective solution focused facilitator
  • Building on parents already present strengths to become the basis for ongoing change 
  • Strengthening family, school and community partnerships

Our evidence-based, Special Needs programme is an effective tool for ALL professionals and managers who want to improve outcomes for older children and adolescents with an intellectual disability.  If you want to gain knowledge, in practical, evidence based, yet effective strategies to empower parents to change the future path for their children with an intellectual disability, then this training is for you.

A wide variety of education, mental health and community professionals already use this solution focused programme successfully, with impressive outcomes in a variety or Primary Care, School, Health, Disability and Mental Health settings


  • Attendance at the Parents Plus Trainings is compulsory for facilitators prior to delivering the programmes.
  • Prior to accreditation, Parents Plus groups are to be co-facilitated.  Therefore, at least two facilitators need to be trained before groups can be delivered in an agency.

The PPSN is strongly evidence-based and was developed in partnership with 13 disability teams and in consultation with 97 parents who participated in focus groups. 

In 2019/2020 in a large randomised controlled trial involving 23 services and 277 parents, families were randomly assigned to treatment as usual or to attend the Parents Plus Special Needs Programme (PPSN)

Parents attending the PPSN reported significant improvements in

  • Parenting practices,
  • Problem behaviours,
  • Parental satisfaction,
  • Parental self-efficacy
  • Personal goal attainment.

The TAU group remained the same on all primary outcome measures.

You can learn more about the success of Parents Plus programmes in disability, school, community, and mental health settings in Ireland and the UK here. 

At Parents Plus our mission is to empower professionals, services and communities to positively change the futures of children and families with our evidence based programmes.  Evidence shows that the best outcomes for families are achieved when managers and professionals are supported pre and post-training to deliver their first groups or individual sessions to families. 

As a result, Parents Plus provides a comprehensive package of pre and post-training supports to professionals and managers who want to ensure a sustainable and effective delivery of the programmes within their agency.

These include:

  • Implementation support to get groups off the ground, including planning workshops and coaching for managers
  • Individual and Group Supervision Sessions with an experienced Parents Plus Trainer*
  • Advanced training workshops on specific topics
  • Extra resources to facilitate delivery, e.g.  parent fliers, posters, certificates, practice articles, parenting articles, extra handouts 
  • Support to promote and market your Parents Plus courses 
  • Advice and guidance on evaluating and monitoring outcomes in your agency so you ensure your groups are effective

You can access two individual supervision sessions completely free of charge in the first year post training.

Sponsorship for further supervision is available on application.

Full details of our comprehensive package of pre and post training supports are available here

Completing the 2-day Special Needs Programme training will license you to co-deliver the programme under supervision in both group and one to one sessions with parents. See full licensing guidelines

Advanced Certification

For facilitators who want to take the practice to a higher level, Parents Plus also have an established accreditation process which supports facilitators to refine their facilitations skills and professional practice and reach a high standard of delivery. Representing a major CPD achievement, gaining accreditation allows professionals to deliver the programmes independently in a private capacity and to work towards becoming a Parents Plus Supervisor.  See information on Accreditation here

The Parents Plus Special Needs Programme Training includes a comprehensive range of materials to ensure effective delivery of your groups.

  • A comprehensive Facilitator’s Manual that contains extensive background information, a full guide on how to prepare and run each session of the course, including suggestions on how to structure group discussion and use role-play.
  • Two parents books that contain all the handouts and worksheets for participants.

In running subsequent courses, additional parent books can be purchased at cost price by trained facilitators. Trained facilitators are also licensed to copy additional worksheets and handouts from parent booklets as needed.

Parent Plus also provide onsite training in local organisations and communities.  This is a cost effective way of training your team and also partnering with other agencies to deliver evidence-based programmes in your area.  

If you would like to avail of onsite training within the convenience of your own organisation, contact us to discuss training packages by emailing Pynver@cneragfcyhf.vr

Really positive – I was very unsure about going to the Parents Plus group, I thought people were going to criticise me, but the course gave me the tools I needed in a friendly way … I just need to remember to press the pause button!

become a solution focused facilitator and make this difference.