Turn to the internet for an answer to a question about special needs and you can be bombarded with results - so it is often a good idea to start by visiting some of the Government sites.
Sure Start (www.surestart.gov.uk) provides an overview of the programme, but also extensive links pages. Organised into five areas, including parental support and health, these include a range of services: public, private and voluntary.
One of the sites listed is the Childcare Link (www.childcarelink.gov.uk), which helps link parents with child carers, both individuals and out-of-school clubs. Finding a carer can be done by a few mouse clicks on the maps, or through a postcode search. There is also another group of useful links, this time including groups for beating bullying and supporting gay and lesbian parents.
The National Parent Partnership Network (www.parentpartnership.org.uk), which is funded by the Department for Education and Skills, provides contact details for local networks and organisations doing similar work.
One is Contact a Family (www.cafamily.org.uk). The site of this organisation for families with disabled children is full of useful information and resources. Next time you come across an unusual medical diagnosis have a look in the comprehensive index of conditions - and if it's not there one of the recommended online dictionaries will have it.
There are areas for different members of the family, including dads, grandparents and siblings, as well as for professionals. There is a good balance of references to research and everyday practicalities.
The Advisory Centre for Education (www.ace-ed.org.uk) is another rich source of information. It offers support on a variety of issues including school placements, statementing, and exclusions. There are a number of publications, some free and downloadable, and some written in Welsh.
The Social Exclusion Unit site (www.socialexclusion.gov.uk) is another government site brimming with facts and articles about the many initiatives for children and young people on the margins, including those vulnerable to crime, in care, pregnant or living in deprived areas. There is a lot here, but it is accessible and offers a balance of statistics and responses.
ICTSEN adviser for Tower Hamlets