Special needs round-up: Inclusion, awareness, understanding

SpecialneedsStanding back and viewing this month as a blogger, a parent of a child with Down’s Syndrome and a BritMums Editor I have to say it has been a month of extremes. The pendulum has swung wide and free across our world of disability, reaching wonderful new ground-breaking highs of inclusion, only to swing seemingly further back to archaic depths of ignorance and harsh realities of the fragility of life.

The snapshot, then, of this month’s blogs has been chosen to reflect what I have dealt with emotionally online. The posts, all positive and beautiful in nature, have focussed on Inclusion, Awareness and Understanding whether it be in daily life, or hospital visits. I hope you find one or two new reads, learn a thing or two and enjoy virtually meeting some of the writers over a cuppa.


We are very open and talk honestly about Down’s Syndrome at home. Natty often looks at photos of little girls like her and says ‘Look, like Natty!’ But at the age of five, I have begun to wonder how and when we start to explain her differences to her and her peers, to foster better understanding and inclusion as the years move on and the differences become more apparent. Steph who writes Steph’s Two Girls echoed my thoughts exactly in Autism: How and When to Educate Others. Spurred on by an incident around fairness and giving rewards at a school, she explains the parent’s desire for tolerance and understanding of our children in the mainstream setting. Inclusion is a two-way learning curve after all.

Deb at Aspie in the Family tells us what happened when her son, who has Asperger’s, overheard a conversation about finding a cure for Autism. His answer is simply perfect and sums up what is so wrong with ‘chasing perfection’ within our society. Read about it here Curing Autism – What My Son Thinks.

Susan at Mum of 4, Wife of 1 Autism and the Internet wrote a concise post about how the internet really helps in her son’s daily life. What a lifesaver for many of us parents too.

Then, as chance would have it, I read the poems of two fathers this month, both aimed at  furthering our understanding of their children. John Lavan writes exquisite poetry at Poems from Reality. He also has a son with Down’s Syndrome and sometimes the poems are about life with him. Always illuminating and honest, I particluarly love this recent offering Pass the Buck in which he describes his son’s emergent skill of swearing. Read his almost daily poems for an instant shot of awareness and understanding.

Living with Fin is a blog written by Greg Pennington who sent me his first ever poem this month. He has written it to coincide with a charity Santa dash he is doing to raise funds for Down’s Syndrome. The poem brought tears to my eyes as much of it resonated with how I felt in the early days, although we did not have an antenatal diagnosis. Read Desicions – A Poem and maybe sponsor Greg too!


Cheetahs in my Shoes by Jenny featured a gem of a post this week. Compassion is written about those medical angels that you meet along your journey as a parent of a child with an illness or disability, those that really stand out, make you feel as if you are part of the same team.

And talking of medical angels… Baby Harry’s Dad Ian Nixon has begun a blog called Ups and Down’s about this incredibly brave and beautiful little fighter. Harry has Down’s Syndrome and has recently had surgery for Hirschsprung’s Disease which did not quite go to plan. Not only does the post make you think about our priorities in life and but it reiterates how positive and inspirational many parents can be despite going through the most worrying of times. Please read Alive and Kicking and send your healing thoughts to Harry and his family.

Still on the subject of the medical, Stephanie Nimmo, Mum of the incredible Daisy, writes Was This in the Plan????  and has penned an invaluable post about helping children with a learning disability to understand what is happening to them during hospital visits in order to ease their fears. Read All in the Mind here.

And Alice Guru-Baillie, fabulous blogger of My Life My Son My Way, writes about the minor irritance of a cold for many, that can lead to much more major health issues for vulnerable children, as we all know, in  Cough Cough Echo Splutter

It’s been a busy month over at Downs Side Up (written by me, Hayley Goleniowska) but I’ve chosen a humorous post to make you giggle and realise that we all go through the same situations, the same rite of passage, whatever our children are like. Yep, we found ourselves in the proverbial poo ealier this month with a very badly timed bottom explosion. Read Poogate here.



I leave you with an upbeat tale of inclusion, described by Amy Dunn  of  A Different View. This is one that is close to my heart for it is the story of Seb, one of Natty’s fellow models with Down’s Syndrome that we ‘met’ when modelling for Jojo Maman Bebe, who has been taken on by major high street retailer Marks and Spencer for their Christmas campaign. Read what this means for us all in Christmas Come Early.

Please read, enjoy and comment on the posts you love. Then pop your SEN blogs in the linky below for a chance to be in next month’s round-up with a Christmassy theme.

Hayley x

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About Hayley Goleniowska

A former language teacher and voice-over artist, Hayley is now the Mum of two gorgeous girls, the youngest of whom, Natty, has Down’s Syndrome. She blogs, speaks and writes articles on the subject for all who will read or listen.

Through Downs Side Up she aims to both offer support and encouragement to new families with a diagnosis, and gently change perceptions of Down’s Syndrome from within hearts through beautiful words and photos.

Her daughter Natty is a clothing model and an amazing ambassador for children with disabilities everywhere. She has appeared in The Sun, Mail Online, Bella Magazine and on ITV Daybreak.

You can find Hayley on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.


  1. 17 November 2012 / 16:55


    Seeing as your theme this week is Inclusion, Awareness and Understanding, I thought you’d be interested in this:

    http://wp.me/p2ggoi-yT (Received pronounciation? Give me BSL any day)

    It’s about deaf people who choose to speak rather than sign, get embarrassed about others signing back to them, and why I think that’s bad for the British Sign Language cause. In 2 days it’s been retweeted about 10 times.

  2. 18 November 2012 / 14:06

    Thanks for including my post on Curing autism – what my son thinks. It was a wonderful moment that I was keen to share (plus I’m very proud of him as any mum or dad would be). Deb x

  3. 18 November 2012 / 15:36

    Will read through these; special needs is naturally a subject very close to my heart.

    CJ x