Children's Specialist Services

We are a team of advisory teachers, and children and family support workers. 

We provide expert advice and information to children and young people who are deafblind/multi-sensory impaired (MSI) or have sensory impairments, their families, carers, and to professionals who work with them. 

Who do we help?

Our service is for children and young people aged 0 - 19 years who are deafblind/MSI, regardless of their diagnosis.

When we talk about children who are deafblind or MSI children we mean:

  • Children who have difficulties with sight and hearing and sometimes learning or other additional disabilities
  • Children who have medical conditions that are likely to cause problems with sight and hearing as they grow older – for example Usher syndrome
    • Although they would not be described as being deafblind – we can often offer some support to the families of children who have problems with either hearing or vision, combined with other additional disabilities.

If you are not sure, please get in touch.

Our core offer of support to families

This is the service that we will provide to every child or young person who is deafblind/MSI living in England, Wales and Northern Ireland:  

  • We will get in touch within two working days from when a family first contacts Sense
  • Each family will will be offered a meeting with a member of the team within eight weeks of first getting in touch with us, this could be via telephone, skype, or face to face at your home, one of our centres, or at one of our groups.
  • Each family will have a named key contact
  • Each family will have the opportunity to attend at least one family event per year
  • We will keep in touch with families through an annual newsletter

Sense support packages

A young woman with glasses smiling

We know there are times in a child or young person's life when their families will need more support – like when they are starting school, changing schools or moving into adulthood. Our team can provide extra support at these key times, or if families are having difficulties.

We have also developed a range of support packages that reflect families' need for additional contact:

Opening Doors: Support for when a child first receives an identification of deafblindness or multi-sensory impairment. We can offer practical ideas about how to develop the child's skills, advice on suitable play activities and help parents to communicate more effectively with their child.

Direct Support: Our team offers additional support for families struggling to cope or experiencing particular problems associated with their child's deafblindness or multi-sensory impairment. Times when a family may need direct support could include significant changes, for example when a child’s intervenor leaves and there are questions regarding their replacement or a change in the child’s condition, family dynamics, transition to secondary school or adulthoood.

Identification Report: Our team offer a report which identifies a child as Deafblind/MSI and outlines the key requirements of local authorities to support families as well as signposting to specific services. The report contains lots of information and observations of the child with recommendations from our practitioner team.

Supporting children in hospital: Going into hospital can be a daunting experience for any child. For children who are deafblind or have multi-sensory impairments (MSI) the challenges are even greater. Because they have little or no sight or hearing, often combined with other disabilities, children who are both deaf and blind can easily become frightened and disorientated in unfamiliar surroundings. We know that hospital staff will only meet deafblind children occasionally and may be uncertain how best to support their MSI needs.

However, there is a lot that can be done to make a child’s stay more pleasant and comfortable, plus plenty of information on the various different causes of deafblindness. To help support hospital staff we have produced a practical booklet – Multi-Sensory Impaired Children in Hospital. This explains what is meant by multi-sensory impairment and how this affects the everyday lives of children and families. It also offers practical tips and ideas to help make the hospital stay less stressful - and includes resources for staff who would like to know more.

Download Multi-sensory impaired children in hospital booklet

Personal Passport – passports are a good way of bringing together the most useful information about your child, the people in their life and their likes and dislikes. Passports can be left by your child’s bed, so that anyone visiting them when you are away can look through and find out more about them.

Download the Personal Passport template (Word, 5MB)

Download the Personal Passport template (PDF, 689KB)

Download tips for what to include in the passport (PDF, 25KB) and how to add and delete sections from it.

Getting a Result: The move into adult life is an important time for young people. Sense works with young people who are deafblind/(MSI) and their families to help ensure that they are able to make an active choice about their future and feel more in control of their life. We encourage the use of person-centred approaches to planning for the transition into adulthood. Download the Getting a Result Information Pack.

Holistic Assessment: A holistic assessment like those carried out by the Children’s Specialist Services team will help a family to see what their child can do and how they can be supported to develop further. The purpose of the assessment is to look at the child as a whole, identifying their strengths and how they can be built upon. Our team works with families to identify priority areas before the assessment day so they know what areas to focus on. These might include early communication or ideas for play and learning.

We also offer:

What you can expect from us

The team strives to provide a high standard of service at all times. We recognise that each child is an individual, with their own potential and challenges, and we need to find the best way to help them.

We aim to work closely in partnership with families and the professionals supporting their child.  We will ensure that both families and professionals have the information they need, including information about rights and the help that may be available to families – not just the services which are provided by Sense.

Getting in touch

To find out more please contact Sense's Information and Advice service who will ensure you are put in touch with the right team.

First published: Wednesday 30 May 2012
Updated: Thursday 10 August 2017