AIM: This study explored parents’ perceptions of their children who have complex health needs and their experience of communication, play, socialising and learning. METHOD: Fourteen parents participated in this qualitative study. Semi-structured interviews were used to elicit their perceptions of the children’s opportunities and experiences. FINDINGS: Parents often felt that their child’s efforts to communicate were not valued. Play and socialising could be more challenging for their children than they were for their peers, partly because of their physical needs, but also because of the priority which others placed on these activities and society’s provision for children with complex health needs. Parents reported a mixed experience of inclusion in education settings. RECOMMENDATIONS: Those who support children who have complex health needs should consider how their communication, play, socialising and education can best be supported and encouraged. Further research to ascertain children’s views would be useful.