Worries about your child's development
There are many different types of special needs, from physical disabilities such as cerebral palsy to autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Certain conditions can be diagnosed during babyhood, but others may only be diagnosed (or start to become apparent) when your child reaches toddler stage: anything that interferes with walking (such as connective tissue disorders) may show up at this stage, also hearing or speech problems (many children are diagnosed with hearing problems when they fail to develop speech).
For some special needs, you may have a diagnosis from very early in your child's life, or even from birth. But others may only become apparent with time, perhaps as developmental milestones are not met or other markers of potential problems are noted.
Trust your instincts
As a parent, you are the expert in matters concerning your child. You know your child better than anyone else, you are with them more than anyone else and you are closer to them than anyone else. "If you think something is wrong, trust your gut feeling," is commonly cited advice for parents of toddlers, "don't be put off by people telling you 'all children are different'."
Lots of parents suspect there is 'something wrong' even from the birth of their child, but Mumsnetters warn that it may be years before those suspicions are confirmed by the medical community.
Trusting your own feelings and instincts is important, particularly in the period when your concerns may not be shared by the people who are responsible for diagnosing your child. "I knew something was wrong but I was told it was all OK for ages," says one mum, "I started to think I was going mad."
Before you have a diagnosis, other people may be surprised you think there is something wrong with your child, and that "you are having what appears to be unacceptable thoughts about your child – namely that they are not perfect".
Again, this can be very isolating and lead to you questioning yourself. "There is such a big element of self-doubt when you start questioning if there is something atypical about your child," one mum recalls, "one of the things that always niggled me was whether he really did have a problem, or was it my imagination? It was a big relief for me when I found out that my feelings were normal and his problems were not something that I was projecting."
What Mumsnetters say about their instinctive initial worries
- My fourth son was very different from my others from the word go. We were quick to realise all was not well and sought expert opinions very early on. MehgaLegs
- I was assessed time and again for postnatal depression when I took my daughter to the clinic, convinced there was something wrong with her. I think I could have ended up being assessed for Munchausen's, as the health visitors really did see nothing wrong with my daughter. Silverfrog
Mumsnet isn't a substitute for expert medical advice, but it is somewhere you can express your anxieties and draw on other parents' experiences without having to feel defensive or disloyal. Have a look at Special needs: children.