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Last Updated: Friday, 7 March 2008, 01:21 GMT
Special needs website wins fans
Willow Brockie
Willow Brockie was born in 2004 and inspired the website
A couple who set up an internet support community for fellow parents of children with special needs hope it can become a charity due to its success.

Debbi Robertson and partner Graham Brockie, of Portlethen, Aberdeenshire, set up Extra Special Parents two years ago after daughter Willow was born.

Willow had a rare congenital condition and they felt "upset and isolated".

Now the growing website has hundreds of members across the world who can discuss special needs of any kind.

Willow, now three, was born in 2004 with a condition called imperforate anus, where waste cannot be expelled.

Debbi, 35, told the BBC Scotland news website: "We wanted to find other parents to talk to about the condition as Willow had to go through four separate major surgeries and will have ongoing treatment for the foreseeable future.

We would like to raise awareness so that we can reach more parents at a time when they can be feeling bewildered and overwhelmed
Debbi Robertson

"We couldn't find anything other than technical medical information after trawling the internet so decided to set up our own website.

"We wanted to include not just Willow's condition but any special needs such as diabetes, asthma and ADHD through to terminal illness."

'A Godsend'

She added: "It started in January 2006 and we now have hundreds of regular members in the UK, Europe, Australia and America who go through a vetting process.

"People have said it is a Godsend."

She revealed: "We are now in the process of applying to become registered as a charity to open more doors as it's becoming quite expensive to run and promote and it takes up a lot of time.

Willow Brockie
Willow's birth led Debbi Robertson and Graham Brockie to act

"We would like to raise awareness of the website so that we can reach more parents at a time when they can be feeling bewildered and overwhelmed by their child's condition."

The website has a discussion forum, and a section dealing with benefits and other sources of financial assistance, plus contact details for charities specialising in various conditions, and local groups and organisations.

Debbi said of the overall aim: "It's very much about talking and offering emotional support.

"There are other sites that specialise but because we cover everything it is comfortable and less formal."

Member praise on the website includes: "ESP is like my second family. The love, support and friendship is truly warming, and I know its a safe little haven for me to talk about my son's conditions."

www.extra-special-parents.org does not give medical advice but offers support and advice of a general nature.

www.espkids.org was established in January 2007 as a place for children who have special needs themselves, and also for children who have siblings with special needs.



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