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Parents' perceptions of how they were told that their child has special needs were examined. Thirty-nine families on the Isle of Wight completed a structured interview. Participants formed two groups. The first group comprised of 23 families who had a child aged from birth to 5 years with special needs. In the second group there were 16 families who had a child aged between 15 and 20 years with special needs. Parents were asked about their perceptions of how their child's special needs were disclosed, their satisfaction with how they were told and what improvements they would have liked. Differences between the two cohorts were examined, and changes in how services were perceived were investigated. Overall, parents in the group with younger children were more satisfied about the way in which they were told that their child had special needs than those with older children. Implications for service delivery and future research are considered.