We all want our children to be perfect: beautiful, loving and intelligent.

Only the lucky few achieve all three but what if your much loved baby has special needs? What can you do?

At one time,the only answer was a special school but then what happens when that child becomes an adult without the experience of society in all its richness and flaws?

What would you want for your special child? For most parents there is no doubt: the chance to lead as full and normal a life as possible. The starting point for that is inclusion being in an ordinary nursery where all children learn to live together.

That is starting to happen as, increasingly, children with disabilities including autism, hyperactivity and special needs are attending local nurseries and playgroups. And it is made more practicable in nurseries that employ a special needs co-ordinator Their role is to ensure your child gets any extra help necessary to help them join in.

In practice, this means that small nursery or full-time playgroup can probably accept one or two children who need extra help. The long-term benefits to the children themselves are undisputed because playing with children with a range of abilities expands their experience and sets new challenges.

But what about the other children of average or higher ability? Will they get the stimulation they also need to develop to the full?

Interestingly,this is rarely question that comes up once child with special needs is established, as parents recognise that everyone benefits. And, often, can mean their children improve their communication skills, even learning sign language.

But education is more than acquiring skills. It is also about developing tolerance and understanding. When small children are properly prepared, they accept differences and often make allowances.

For example, small children who have experience of special needs can easily distinguish between a temper tantrum and an outburst by an acutely hyperactive or autistic child. They develop friendships that cut across ability.