Mother and Baby

Wednesday Lunch Club Q+A With Special Needs Nurse Karen Dobson

Missed our Wednesday lunch club with special needs expert Karen Dobson? Don’t worry, you can read all of the expert advice she shared here

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Every week at Mother&Baby we bring you the Wednesday Lunch Club – a chance to get brilliant advice for your parenting questions from a top expert. This week, nurse Karen Dobson was on standby to answer questions about looking after a child with special needs.

Karen is lead nurse at disabled children’s charity Newlife Foundation and has worked with the charity for 11 years. She’s a registered general nurse and has worked in paediatrics, midwifery, neonatal baby care and community nursing.

If you missed the chat, here’s what happened…


My little girl is 15 months old and has Cerebral Palsy. She has outgrown her first stage car seat but the standard toddler ones don't give her enough support. Are there any special car seats on the market?

Karen’s answer:

There are a wide range of specialist car seats to meet a wide spectrum of needs. These car seats are often very expensive, often in excess of £2,000, so it is important to get the right one. The best person to support you in making the right choice is your occupational therapist.


My five month old son has just been diagnosed with Noonans Syndrome. He has significant difficulties feeding and vomits after each feed. I worry constantly about this and don't know where to turn.

Karen’s answer:

Newlife host the UK's Nurse support helpline for this condition – Noonans Syndrome. Early feeding difficulties are very common and can be a result of a range of issues such as poor sucking, reflex, gastro oesophageal reflux and high palate. A speech and language therapist will be able to help you as they can teach different techniques to support feeding issues. Both your health visitor and consultant can refer you to these services.


My toddler is 21 months and not walking yet and I'm worried. Who do I speak to?

Karen’s answer:

All children develop at different rates, some will walk at 12 months and others are closer to three years. If you are concerned then you can speak to your health visitor who will be able to support and reassure you.


My child has recently been diagnosed with Developmental Delay. We've always struggled getting her to sleep, do you have any suggestions?

Karen’s answer:

It is good to establish a good bedtime routine. Maybe you could incorporate baths, baby massage, reading etc so that your daughter learns to associate these activities with bedtime and sleep.


My autistic toddler's birthday is coming up soon and I don't know whether I should throw him a party. We don't want to overwhelm him with lots of commotion and people but I don't want him to miss out on the experiences of other children. What do you think?

Karen’s answer:

It is important to gauge these events around your child's individual needs. Perhaps a small gathering of friends and family that he is comfortable with in a location that is familiar to him. Maybe a theme geared towards his particular interests.


Loving your tips. Any advice on what tests there are during pregnancy to let you know if your child will be born with special needs?

Karen answer:

Your antenatal care providers can offer a range of diagnostic tests to identify possible disabilities. These tests often depend on the parents’ medical history and risk factors. Midwives are best placed to discuss specific concerns and are generally available day and night.

To find out more about the Newlife Foundation visit their website or receive advice via the charity’s confidential helpline on 0800 902 0095, available from 9:30 to 5:00 every weekday with extended hours until 7:00 on a Wednesday.


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