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All children and young people experience a range of emotional ups-and-downs as they navigate our complex world – maybe worrying about the future of the planet, coping with social media pressures, falling in and out of friendships, having arguments at home…it is not an easy journey.

Disabled children can face additional stresses and challenges and may become anxious, frustrated or angry about the additional barriers they face. They may question ‘why me?’. Hospital appointments and stays may interfere with their opportunities to make friends at school and / or to do the things they want to. They may experience physical barriers to access – for example to a friend’s house or social get together. Dealing with pain, struggling to do things independently, and feeling ‘different’ may also impact on their emotional and psychological well-being and mental health throughout childhood and into adulthood.

It can be hard for you to hear these things from your child, but your willingness and the willingness of other family members to listen and support them often makes a positive difference. Sometimes, though, even the best family support may not be enough and a child may not want to express their feelings and frustrations to their family.

If you do feel concerned about your child’s emotional wellbeing, you might want to ask someone for advice; perhaps someone who knows your child or who has an understanding of what support might be possible, for example your neuromuscular clinical team might work closely with a psychologist or social worker who you could approach. Your child’s teacher, community nurse or GP is another possible starting point for finding out what local individual or group support might be available. It may also be useful to chat to other parents about your concerns and hear their tips and ideas for how they found helpful emotional and social support for their child – see further information here.

Some of the following avenues of support may also be helpful for your child:

Getting involved with organisations that welcome and include disabled children can help increase your child’s confidence and self-esteem.

You can find suggestions in: Hobbies, Clubs and Sports in this section.

Your child may find talking confidentially with a psychologist or counsellor helpful. There might be a counsellor at their school or you may be able to contact one via your GP, medical team or local hospice. If your child is aged under 16, they will need your permission.

If you are not sure what counselling involves, the links below may help.

Otherwise you may wish to talk options over and in confidence with a worker at one of the organisations listed under the below ‘Online Support’ section.

  • Free services:

If your GP thinks it appropriate, they can offer to refer your child to your local specialist NHS mental health services for children and young people, including CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services). Read more.

Play and music therapy can especially help younger children who are struggling emotionally. Older children may find talking confidentially with a psychologist or counsellor helpful. There are a number of avenues for finding these services including via your child’s school, GP, specialist medical team or local hospice. The following suggestions may also be helpful:

  • Children’s hospices – some offer play therapy and counselling, or can tell you where you can access these services locally. They may also offer activities, newsletters, weekends / outings which can all be helpful. Services vary; you can find your local children’s hospice, along with details of who they can support and how.
  • Young Minds – Phone 0808 802 5544 – a national charity committed to improving the mental health of all children and young people. They also have a specific parents’ helpline for any adult with concerns about the mental health of a child or young person.

  • Private (paid) services:

British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP)– Phone: 01455 883 300 – useful guidance on counselling and how to find a suitable counsellor, including for children.

Counselling Directory – online information about different types of counselling and a directory to search for qualified counsellors, including for children

Play Therapy UK has a register of accredited play therapists.

The British Association for Music Therapy explains more about music therapy and has an online ‘Find a Therapist’ search tool.

If you are not sure who to speak to or which is the right route for your child, our Support & Outreach Team is here to talk through your options.

  • vpnMentor – advice and tips about online privacy, including a useful parent guide for protecting your child on the internet.
  • Childline – Phone: 0800 1111 – for young people to turn to whatever problems or dangers they’re facing. Trained childline counsellors are there 24 hours a day.
  • Childnet International – resources for children, young people, parents, carers and teachers.
  • Support Line – Phone 01708 765 2000 confidential emotional support for children, young adults and adults by phone 01708 765 2000 and via their website.
  • The Mix – Phone 0808 808 4994 – free helpline for young people under the age of 25 providing information and emotional support.

Unfortunately, children with health conditions are sometimes also more at risk of bullying than their peers.

Contact has information, including a leaflet called ‘Dealing with Bullying’ which has been written for families with disabled children.

If your child is being bullied at school through their mobile or online (cyber bullying) talk to their teachers straight away. Schools are responsible for having a whole-school approach to dealing with bullying. The following organisations can also help:

As a parent / carer, you may be interested in listening to Becca and Ross (who have SMA), talking to Ellie (an Integrative Art Psychotherapist), about: Mental Health and living with a long term condition (in two parts) from our Living with SMA podcast:

Part one:

Recorded: June 2023

Part two:

Recorded July 2023