What does ‘Special Educational needs and/or Disabilities’ Mean?

The term special educational needs/disabilities' has a legal definition.

Children with special educational needs all have learning difficulties that make it harder for them to learn than most children of the same age, or they may have a disability that means they cant access the type of facilities provided for children or young people in a mainstream school or college, or find it very difficult to access them. They may need extra or different help from that given to other children or young people of the same age.

Many children and young people may have special educational needs of some kind at some time during their education. Education settings and other organisations can help most children and young people overcome the barriers their difficulties present quickly and easily. However, a small number will need extra help for some or all of their time in education.

Children and young people with special educational needs/disabilities may require extra help because of a range of needs, such as in thinking and understanding, physical or sensory difficulties, emotional, social or mental health issues or difficulties with their speech and language or how they relate to and behave with other people.

For example, special educational needs could mean that a child or young person has difficulties with:
  • speech, language and communication difficulties which make it difficult for them to make sense of language or to understand how to communicate effectively or appropriately with others;
  • learning at a slower pace than others, have difficulty in understanding parts of the curriculum, have difficulty in organising themselves or remembering things or a specific difficulty with one particular part of their learning such as literacy or numeracy
  • social, emotional and mental health issues which can mean managing relationships with people can be difficult, may be withdrawn or behave in a way that causes problems for themselves and others;
  • a physical or sensory needs, such as visual or hearing impairments, or a physical need that means they require extra, ongoing support and equipment.

Description of the main areas of Special Educational Needs

SEN are generally thought of in the following four broad areas of need and support (Chapter 6 SEN Code of Practice):

Communication and Interaction:
Children and young people with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) have difficulty in communicating with others. This may be because they have difficulty saying what they want to, understanding what is being said to them or they do not understand or use social rules of communication. The profile for every child with SLCN is different and their needs may change over time. They may have difficulty with one, some or all of the different aspects of speech, language or communication at different times of their lives.

Children and young people with ASD, including Aspergers Syndrome and Autism, are likely to have particular difficulties with social interaction. They may also experience difficulties with language, communication and imagination, which can impact on how they relate to others.

Cognition and Learning:
Support for learning difficulties may be required when children and young people learn at a slower pace than their peers, even with appropriate differentiation. Learning difficulties cover a wide range of needs, including moderate learning difficulties (MLD), severe learning difficulties (SLD), where children are likely to need support in all areas of the curriculum and associated difficulties with mobility and communication, through to profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD), where children are likely to have severe and complex learning difficulties as well as a physical disability or sensory impairment.
Specific learning difficulties (SpLD), affect one or more specific aspects of learning. This encompasses a range of conditions such as dyslexia, dyscalculia and dyspraxia.

Social, Emotional and Mental Health Difficulties:
Children and young people may experience a wide range of social and emotional difficulties which manifest themselves in many ways. These may include becoming withdrawn or isolated, as well as displaying challenging, disruptive or disturbing behaviour. These behaviours may reflect underlying health difficulties such as anxiety or depression, self-harming, substance misuse, eating disorders or physical symptoms that are medically unexplained. Other children and young people may have disorders such as attention deficit disorder, attention deficit hyperactive disorder or attachment disorder.


Sensory and/or Physical Needs:
Some children and young people require special education provision because they have a disability which prevents or hinders them making use of educational facilities generally provided. These difficulties can be age related and may fluctuate over time. Many children and young people with visual impairment (VI), hearing impairment (HI) or a multi-sensory impairment (MSI) will require specialist support and/or equipment to access their learning, or habilitation support. Children and young people with an MSI have a combination of vision and hearing difficulties. Some children and young people with a physical disability (PD) require ongoing support and equipment to access all the opportunities available to their peers.


Do you think your child might have a special educational need or disability?

For most children or young people with special educational needs/disabilities help and support will usually be organised in their local mainstream education provider (nursery, school or college). This is often where SEN is first identified and if this happens, the school or other setting must contact you (or your child directly if they are 16 or over) to discuss what the appropriate support for your child might be. They must also tell you if they are providing any special educational support for your child.

If you think your child might have SEN then you should talk to the education setting they will discuss with you any worries you might have, what they think and explain to you what the next steps might be. Working together with your childs teachers will often help to sort out worries and problems. The closer you work with them, the more successful any help for your child can be.

Rememberyou know your child better than anyone!

You might like to ask the school or setting if:
  • the school thinks your child has difficulties;
  • the school thinks your child has special educational needs;
  • your child is able to work at the same level as other children of a similar age;
  • your child is already getting some extra help; and
  • you can help your child.

Other people may be able to offer guidance, support and advice to you:

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Last updated:
01/09/2014

Assigned review date:
29/08/2015

Page Section:
Resident
Schools & Learning

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Special Educational Needs (SEN) Service