Identifying SEND and professionals who can help if your child is under 5

You may already have a child that has been diagnosed with a special educational need or disability, or you may be concerned that your child has a learning problem that will impact on their education.

Getting special educational needs identified and supported early is important to ensure your child has better outcomes. There are a range of professionals who help with the process of identifying your child’s special educational needs. These professionals can also form an important part of your child’s education and support. 

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Identifying special educational needs 

Your child will learn through being with other people and exploring the world around them.

Some children will find it more difficult than others their age with:

  • communication
  • understanding and learning
  • sensory and physical development
  • behaviour
  • interacting with other children

Your own observations of how your child develops are important.  If you have a child under five years old and think they may have a special educational need, you should talk to your:

  • health visitor
  • the person designated to co-ordinate special educational provision at their pre-school or nursery
  • SENCo at school

Your GP or family doctor can make referrals to relevant specialist professionals for you if they suspect your child may have a disability or condition.  They are not however able to offer specialist advice or treatment.

The Sirona care and health website has information on health visiting in South Gloucestershire.

In school your child's needs will be identified and supported by the school.  You can read more about how schools support children here.

Health professionals that can help

You may meet a number of health and education professionals in the course of your child’s special educational needs being identified.  The following are examples of the professionals that may be involved:

Health visitors are trained nurses who are responsible for health and development in pre-school children.  You can raise a concern about your child’s development during routine assessments.  The Sirona care and health website has information on health visiting in South Gloucestershire.

Paediatrician - Your GP or health visitor may refer you to a community paediatrician. These are experts in the health and development of children, particularly those with developmental disabilities.

Occupational therapist (OT) Your child may see an OT if they have problems with:

  • handwriting
  • co-ordination
  • fine motor skills
  • organisation
  • listening and attention
  • behaviour
  • communication

An occupational therapist can help with therapeutic techniques, adapting the environment and identifying specialist equipment.  The Community Children’s Health Partnership website has details about the Children’s Occupational Health Therapy including what they do and how to get help.

Speech and language therapist (SLT)

SLTs help with speech, language and communication abilities.  They work closely with parents and carers as well as teachers and other professionals.  The Community Children’s Health Partnership website has details of Children’s Speech and Language Therapy (CCHP), including what they do and how to get help.

Educational Professionals who can help

Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCo)

A SENCo is the person with day-to-day responsibility for children with special educational needs (SEN) in nursery, pre-school or other early years setting. Not all early years providers will use the term SENCo, but they will all have someone whose job it is to:

  • discuss the child’s needs with their parents or carers
  • take action to help identify children with SEN
  • make sure that appropriate support and interventions are use
  • access support for the setting from the Early Years Service

The views of parents and carers should be listened to at all times and they should have input into what support and interventions are used.

Early years portage

Portage is a home-visiting educational service for pre-school children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and their families.

The portage service:

  • helps families and children to learn together
  • gives approaches and targets to help a child’s development
  • gives ideas for play and teaching activities
  • support parents to learn more about special educational needs
  • runs groups to support families
  • helps with the transition of children from early years providers to primary school

Portage practitioners understand special educational needs and the processes and procedures you may come across.  They can liaise with early years providers and attend ‘team around the child (TAC) or family (TAF) meetings. 

The National Portage Association website has more information on portage services.

Referrals to the council’s portage team can be made by parents, carers or professionals by contacting Access and Response Team (ART).

Educational psychologist (EP)

An EP will carry out psychological assessments of learning profiles and needs.  These are usually done in an education setting.

They also:

  • offer advice and support to teachers and parents
  • can contribute to the diagnosis process as part of a team with other professionals, such as an occupational therapist and speech and language therapist
  • they can also carry out assessments for education health and care assessments. 

For general enquiries regarding SEND, including SEN Support Services, please contact Will Pritchard, Strategic Lead for inclusion and SEND: