PARENTS

The Quest To Find The Right Playgroup For My Special Needs Child

24/03/2015 22:09 | Updated 24 May 2015

Childcare and Education

My amazing son, who I'll call J, is three, and was diagnosed soon after birth with a relatively rare genetic condition. We don't yet know how it will affect him as he grows older, but so far he has battled an array of medical problems. One thing's for sure, our little family's life will never be 'normal'...

For J and me, it's time to give the special needs playgroup in our new city another bash.

To be honest, I'm not hopeful that it will be any more welcoming after our depressing visit last week. I'm more curious to meet the organiser, Jane, who will apparently be there this week, along with more parents.

There are a few more cars in the children's centre car park this time, and we are directed to a different room – small, with four women sitting in plastic chairs drinking cups of tea.

For J, it's hell. "Box of cars?" he asks desperately, scanning the toy-free, playmate-free room. "Train set?" And then, of course, within a minute, "I don't like it."

It's obvious that although this is meant to be a group for parents and children, no one else brings their little ones. But at least the women are smiling at me and greeting me – and it turns out one of them, who is friendly and warm, is, amazingly, Jane. All my irritation with her vanishes in a puff as she says she's happy we have come and offers me a cuppa.

Plying J with chocolate digestives, plus someone finding all of six train tracks in another room, buys me 20 minutes to meet the other mothers. One is especially nice – she has a daughter of two who's at nursery, and a six-year-old daughter who has a rare illness and has spent far too much time in hospital. Apparently she loves trains, just like J.

The other mothers have teenage children – one has autism and I'm just about to talk to the others when J's patience evaporates.

​He's bored silly, he's crying, and I can't keep giving him biscuits indefinitely. We say our goodbyes and I swap numbers with the mum I chatted to the most.

Jane mentioned another group which meets in a nearby town – more families with young children go, she says. So the next week, J and I set off to try it out.

Once again we drive, we park and we walk into an unknown room to find another circle of women (this time about 10 of them) talking over coffee – and no other children. J immediately flips when he sees the tiny, vehicle-free box of toys in the corner.

We aren't even in the meeting for two minutes. The other mothers shoot me sympathetic wry smiles as J drags me back outside, pleading "Go somewhere else. I don't like it."

I plan to return on my own, or with baby M, another time. But I'd still like to find a group where J can come along too. So our search continues.

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