Special Needs Jungle (SNJ) is the special educational needs and dibailities (SEND) specialist blog that aims to empower parents. Founded by Tania Tirraoro, Special Needs Jungle recently topped the Healthcare Blog Ranking. Here, Tania talks to us about the breadth of her blog, the importance of truth and accuracy, and working with PRs.
How would you describe your blog?
Special Needs Jungle is a parent-led blog, founded in 2008. Since then, it has grown and regularly features columnists and guest bloggers on all topics around SEN, disability, child health and disability parenting. We’ve produced helpful resources and infographics for people involved with SEND that are endorsed by the Department for Education. SNJ is the most influential SEND blog in the UK and aims to help empower parents with knowledge and resources as well as informative articles.
Why did you start your blog?
I started it as a way to help parents get the special educational needs support their disabled children needed, after I had successfully got my own sons’ statements of SEN. As the need for help and information grew with the SEND reforms, so did the blog.
What makes your blog different from others in your field?
There are now many SEND blogs out there, but SNJ was one of the first. We’re different as it’s not about one family or one subject but crosses all types of children and young people’s needs. We have a strong pool of expertise in our volunteer writers who are both expert parents and SEND professionals. We also work with the DfE and children’s charities to ensure that we provide a comprehensive range of articles and information. We have a very large audience for our niche, and a far-reaching social media presence. I hope we’re seen as a trusted source.
What’s the biggest issue facing health in the UK at the moment?
The cuts to the NHS and education are undoubtedly the biggest challenge. The population is growing and better medical treatment means more people, from preemie babies to the sick and elderly, are surviving longer. Not paying health workers enough and taking away training funding is putting stress on staffing, while cuts across the board are causing unsustainable pressure. You cannot continue to get more for less and the funding that’s being put in is just not enough.
How important is accuracy and truth to your blogging?
Vital. We tell it like it is and if we didn’t, our readers would lose trust in us. As an experienced journalist myself, it’s fundamental to me that if you’re going to put out information to vulnerable people, it has to be easy to understand and totally accurate.
What are your favourite topics to cover?
Although we talk a lot about the difficulties of SEND, I love posts about self-help and alternative therapies that will work for children and parents. As someone with a rare condition, I also like to cover rare disease topics. And of course, top tips.
What makes your blog successful?
Being consistent. We’ve been around for a long time and I hope we have something for everyone. We also have a growing readership of people who are not parents of SEND children but who work in the field both in education and health. I often think people forget that at its heart, it’s just me, unpaid, my SNJ partner, Renata Blower, and whoever can get a good post to me that I think people will be interested in. I figure if I’m interested in it, others will be too.
How often do you work with PR professionals for your blog?
We work with book publishers often to highlight new books and are open to good ideas, but we do charge for talking about commercial products as you would expect (though it sometimes comes as a surprise to them!). We have to pay the hosting and other fees at the end of the day and we know that a feature on SNJ is worth something. We will often run a giveaway for a new book so our readers benefit, which is fab! We feature articles from charities and non-profits for free.
What top tips would you give to PRs who want to work with you?
Know your stuff about SEND. Know our blog and its readership and don’t expect something for nothing. And don’t believe the readership stats you get from anywhere except us.
What advice would you give to new bloggers?
Think about the long term. Are you going to just talk about your family and if so, how much are you prepared to make public? What will your kids think if they read it now or in years to come? And most of all, be aware that any pictures of your children you put on there are likely to end up in places you’d rather not think about. Trust me on this. At SNJ we now never use pictures of other people’s children unless the parent is also in it, very close, so the child’s image can’t be easily isolated. There’s no need for us to add to what is already so freely available to be used in other, sickening ways.
What are your favourite blogs/publications to read?
Well, other than my other blog, A Life, not As Advertised and Renata’s blog, Just Bring the Chocolate, I like Hayley Goleniowska’s Downs Side Up and Nancy Gedge’s The Diary of a Not So Ordinary Boy. I like others too, but I don’t get a lot of time to read them, as my other big interest is in consciousness studies, healing and remote viewing. I’ve just been on a consciousness exploration course with The Monroe Institute and so free time is spent reading about these subjects.
Special Needs Jungle features on the Vuelio Media Database along with thousands of other bloggers, influencers and journalists.