Children with special needs
Each child develops at their own pace. Children with special needs have many different development and learning paths.
A child with special needs requires special support for development and learning. The needs for support may be due to a disability, an illness or a functional impairment.
When a parent finds out that their child has special needs, they will have many questions. Questions also arise as the child is growing and developing
These pages contain information and numerous links about many different kinds of special needs, disabilities and illnesses.
Read more about special needs in schooling.
ETRI is an abbreviation for initial support group session (ensitukiryhmäistunto).
- It is offered to families that are about to have or already have a child who requires special support and treatment, for example due to a disability or illness.
- The session can be organised either after the birth or during the pregnancy, for example after receiving the results of a prenatal screening.
- If the family so wishes, more sessions can be held.
The duration of the initial support group session is about 2 hours. It is a calm event during which no one has to speak if they do not want to. You can just sit and listen. At the meeting, the information about the child’s special needs can also be shared with the family’s network of loved ones. After introductions, a doctor will share the medical facts about the situation, after which they usually leave. Rest of the session is intended for free discussion and expressing emotions.
The initial support group session is voluntary and free of charge to the family. Such sessions are primarily held in a hospital. The partner hospitals are Kätilöopisto Maternity Hospital, Women's Hospital and Jorvi, which all have employees trained to give initial support.
The purpose of the session is to give the family an opportunity to process the child’s special needs and the feelings and thoughts brought up by them with professionals and loved ones. All emotions are allowed and they should be shared, but the session is not, however, a therapy session. During the session, the family will receive information about practical matters, such as everyday life with the child and available subsidies and services.
The family can decide who takes part in the session. Usually, the participants include family, loved ones chosen by the family, a peer parent as well as nurses and a doctor, who are part of the initial support group. A peer parent is a parent with a similar experience to the family in question. All participants are obligated to maintain confidentiality.
More information (in Finnish):
- Lisätietoa ensitukiryhmäistunnosta, Vammaispalvelujen käsikirja,THL
- Ensituki, Helsingin Kehitysvammatuki 57 ry
- Opas ensitiedosta, Kehitysvammaisten tukiliitto ry
Parents’ comments about initial support:
“Communication from a person to person.”
“All babies are wonderful, cute and beautiful. Focus on the good things.”
“Our child’s disability was diagnosed during a structural ultrasound scan. The doctor performing the scan called some specialists in right away so that they could answer to our immediate questions.”
“Peer support is essential to the whole family.”
“When you’re just among your peers you do not need to explain everything from the beginning; shared understanding and sharing happen almost automatically.”
“Peer support is so important in all areas of life, not only when first sharing the information.”
“Our child was diagnosed as disabled as a 2.5-year-old. The unit’s social worker told us about where we could find support and explained what financial support and benefits we could apply for. At that point, we needed information about what an intellectual disability diagnosis means and whether it is permanent, what can we expect for the child’s future, etc. Later on, the psychologist from the Developmental Disability Clinic suggested that we could have an initial support session, in which we could invite the grandparents and other relatives and friends, some of whom still have a hard time accepting the matter.”