Parents of children with an intellectual disability can face significant challenges, especially during the adolescent years. With our Special Needs Programme you can support parents to manage these challenges, improve their family’s well-being and strengthen their links with other parents.

This programme is practical, solution-focused and draws on parents strengths. It is suitable for professionals including social workers, therapists, teachers to assist parents who are raising an older child or adolescent with a mild, moderate or severe intellectual disability, and who 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.

It is flexible and can be delivered over 6-12 weeks in small groups or with individuals.

The PPSN was launched in September 2020. You can view recordings of all the speakers here.

By training as a facilitator of this programme, you will learn how to support parents of an adolescent with special needs to:

  • Manage behaviour and emotional problems
  • Deal with puberty, sexuality and relationships
  • Reduce their own stress as parents
  • Support all relationships in the family
  • Build self-esteem and confidence
  • Advocate for their child or adolescent
  • Support education and development
  • Prepare their child for adulthood and future transitions

“The Parents Plus Special Needs programme is a MOMENTOUS piece of work that will have real benefits for families with children with special needs. ParentsPlus have a strong track record and really impressive results delivering positive outcomes for families. As we come out of the pandemic, the support of the new Parents Plus Programme is needed now more than ever. This will make a real difference to family lives on a daily basis.”

Minister for Children, Disability, Equality, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman TD, Speaking at the launch of PPSN

The Special Needs Programme facilitator training is suitable for a range of professionals, including:

  • Progressing Disability Network Teams
  • Multidisciplinary teams within NHS CAMHS
  • Family Resource Centres
  • TUSLA Child and Family Agency Child Protection Teams
  • Northern Ireland Health and Social Care Trust – Learning Disability Teams
  • Charities such as Enable Ireland, Brothers of Charity, Sisters of Charity, as Family Carers Ireland and Down Syndrome Ireland 
  • Regional Parent support networks  
  • Parent Led Support Groups

The Special Needs facilitator training is practical and solution-focused and will provide you with the essential skills and learning to achieve the best outcomes for the parents and families who attend your service.

The training focuses on:

  • Developing an in-depth understanding of this programme
  • Delivering the programme via face-to-face and online sessions to groups and individual families
  • Providing opportunities to observe and practise the skills to become a solution-focused facilitator
  • Building on parents strengths as a basis for ongoing change
  • Strengthening inter-agency and community partnerships

The Parents Plus Special Needs Programme is without doubt the solution to the crippling problems that parents of adolescents and young adults with I.D. need. The programme will change the future for children with special needs, their parents, their families and their communities. It should be compulsory and offered to every family affected by special needs. It really is that important.

Eleanor Kent, Social Worker

Facilitator Training

The next available facilitator training for this programme starts on 14th October 2024 and consists of three online workshops delivered via Zoom. Participants are also invited to complete a short assignment between workshops. The Training schedule is summarised below and further details can be viewed here:

14th Oct9.15am-1.15pm
Goals, Background, Evidence-base, Course Content
Groupwork and Session Delivery Practice
16th Oct9.15am-1.15pm
Facilitation Skills, Session Planning and Delivery.
17th Oct9.15am-1.15pm
Individual Sessions, Managing Challenges, Setting up Groups

Parents Plus offer a small number of part-sponsored places on the training when accessing finance is difficult.  

The Parents Plus facilitator trainings are open to qualified education, mental health and community professionals who work with families.

Our programmes are successfully delivered with impressive outcomes in a variety of Primary Care, School, Health, Disability and Mental Health settings.

  • Attendance at our facilitator training for this programme is compulsory prior to delivering it to families attending your service.
  • Parents Plus programmes must be co-facilitated, therefore, at least two facilitators need to be trained before a programme can be delivered to families in your agency. Facilitators who go on to complete our accreditation process are licensed to run the programme without a co-facilitator.

Please read our licensing guidelines here
prior to booking a place on our training.

Watch our practice seminar on 27th June 22 to see how professionals in Ireland and the UK deliver the PPSN

Our Special Needs programme 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, were randomly assigned to treatment as usual or to attend the Parents Plus Special Needs Programme (PPSN).

Parents attending the Parents Plus Special Needs Programme reported significant improvements in:

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

The ‘treatment as usual’ group remained the same on all primary outcome measures.

The research was published in the prestigious Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities in 2023

You can learn more about the impact of this programme, and all our other programme here

Research shows that families achieve the best outcomes when facilitators and their managers are supported pre and post-training to deliver programmes. We provide a comprehensive package of pre and post-training supports to our facilitators and managers in order to ensure a sustainable and effective delivery of the programmes within their agency. 

Our supports 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. fliers, posters, certificates, practice articles, parenting articles, supplementary handouts.

  • Support to promote your Parents Plus courses in your community.
  • Advice and guidance on evaluating and monitoring outcomes in your agency to ensure your groups are effective.
  • Access to two individual supervision sessions free of charge in the first year post-training.
  • Sponsorship for further supervision is available on application.

You can read more details about our pre- and post-training supports here.

On completing the facilitator training for the Special Needs Programme, you will be licensed to co-deliver this programme under supervision in your agency, to groups and with individuals. You can read our full licensing guidelines here.

For facilitators who want to take their practice to a higher level, Parents Plus also has an established accreditation process which supports you to refine your facilitation skills and professional practice and reach a high standard of delivery. Representing a major CPD achievement, accreditation allows you to deliver our programmes independently and to work towards becoming a Parents Plus supervisor. You can read more about our accreditation process in the resources section.

Our Special Needs Programme materials include:

  • A comprehensive facilitator’s manual, with detailed guides to plan and deliver each session, including how to structure group discussion and exercises.
  • Two colourful parent books, containing all the programme handouts and worksheets for participants.*

*In running subsequent courses, trained facilitators can purchase additional parent books at cost price. Trained facilitators are also licensed to copy worksheets and handouts from the parent books, as an alternative.

Parent Plus provides onsite training to organisations and communities in Ireland and internationally.  This is a cost-effective way to train your team or to partner with other agencies to deliver evidence-based programmes in your area.

If you would like to arrange an onsite training for your organisation, please contact our Impact Lead, Vicki Byrne at Ivpxv@cneragfcyhf.vr

Change the future for families