What is SEND

Children learn at different rates and in different ways. Your child with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) may have learning difficulties or disabilities that make it harder for them to learn than most children of the same age. 

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What special educational needs are 

The term special educational needs (SEN) is a definition for when children have learning difficulties or impairments that impact on their education.  It can often be shortened to SEN. If you see the abbreviation SEND, this means your child may also have a disability.  

Your child may have special educational needs if both of the following apply: 

  • they have a physical or mental impairment, this includes a learning difficulty, mental health issues and physical disability which makes it much harder for them to learn than other pupils of the same age

  • they require special educational provision to be made for them 

For a more detailed description about special educational needs can be found in the SEND code of practice: 0 to 25 years 

What a disability is 

The Equality Act 2010 states a person has a disability when they have a physical or mental impairment that:  

  • is substantial and long term, which means it is likely to last at least 12 months or the rest of their life.   

  • has an adverse effect on their ability to carry out day-to-day activities. 

This includes sensory impairments such as those that affect sight or hearing. It also covers long term health conditions like asthma, diabetes, epilepsy and cancer. 

Your child may have a disability, this does not necessarily mean they will have special educational needs, but there is a significant chance that having a disability can impact on their ability to learn.  

Types of special educational needs and disabilities  

Special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) can affect a child’s ability to learn, there are four broad areas of need that SEND may have an impact on.   

Your child may have a combination of these needs that could change over time and at different points in their education.  

The SEND code of practice has more information about the broad areas of need at sections 6.28 – 6.35 from page 97.

Communication and interaction needs 

Your child may have speech, language and communication difficulties which make it difficult for them to make sense of language or to understand how to communicate effectively and appropriately with others. 

Communication and interaction needs could include 

  • difficulties with producing or responding to expressive or receptive language 

  • difficulties uttering speech sounds 

  • difficulties understanding spoken and other communications from others 

  • difficulties with understanding age-related social conventions of interaction, such as turn-taking during conversations or appropriate level of physical contact during play 

Children and young people with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder, including Asperger’s Syndrome, are likely to have particular difficulties with social interaction.

Cognition and learning needs 

Your child may learn at a slower pace than others their age, they may: 

  • have difficulty in understanding parts of the curriculum 

  • have difficulties with organisation and memory skills 

  • have a specific difficulty affecting one particular part of their learning such as in literacy or numeracy 

The term ‘learning difficulties’ covers a wide range of needs, including; moderate learning difficulties (MLD), severe learning difficulties (SLD),  profound and multiple difficulties (PMLD) and specific learning difficulties (SpLD) such as dyslexia, dyspraxia and dyscalculia. 

Social, emotional and mental health needs 

Children and young people may experience a wide range of social and emotional difficulties which present themselves in many ways. They may: 

  • have difficulty in managing their relationships with other people 

  • be withdrawn or isolated 

  • show avoidance behaviours 

  • behave in ways that may hinder their and other children’s learning or that have an impact on their health and wellbeing 

  • display challenging, disruptive or disturbing behaviour. 

This broad area of needs includes attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or attachment disorder. It also includes behaviours that may reflect underlying mental health difficulties such as anxiety, depression, self-harming and eating disorders.

Sensory and/or physical needs 

Where children and young people have visual and/or hearing impairments or a physical need that means they must have additional ongoing support and equipment. 

Some children and young people require special educational provision because they have a disability which prevents or hinders them from making use of the educational facilities generally provided. 

Many children and young people with physical disability (PD), vision impairment (VI), hearing impairment (HI) or a multi-sensory impairment ((MSI) - both hearing and vision difficulties) may need specialist support and/or equipment to access learning and other opportunities available to their peers. They may also need support to help with daily tasks such as eating or travelling. 

Children and young people with physical and sensory needs are supported in schools by their teachers and Special Educational Needs Coordinators (SENCo.) They may also receive support in education settings or in their homes from the sensory support service depending on their needs.  

Reasonable adjustments  

In accordance with the Equality Act 2010, education settings have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to avoid their disabled pupils being at a substantial disadvantage to their non-disabled peers.   

This applies to: 

  • provisions, criteria and practices e.g. school policies 

  • auxiliary aids and services e.g. supportive equipment or a member of staff. 

When considering reasonable adjustments settings should consider: 

  • is the pupil at a substantial disadvantage without it? e.g. falling behind with schoolwork 

  • could this be avoided? e.g. with one-to-one support or specialist teaching 

  • is it reasonable for the school to take these steps? 

The term ‘reasonable’ is not defined in the Equality Act, but things that are likely to be considered are the: 

  • extent to which the disadvantage would be overcome 

  • extent your child is supported through SEN legislation 

  • resources the school has, and the costs and practicality of making the adjustment 

  • extent to which your child will suffer if the reasonable adjustment is not made 

  • health and safety requirements 

  • need to maintain academic and other standards 

  • interests of other pupils and prospective pupils  

When making reasonable adjustments, schools or education settings do not have to alter or remove physical features of their building, but they have a general duty to plan better access for disabled pupils.  

There may be many other adjustments that need to be made for your child. Schools should not charge parents for any reasonable adjustments they make.  

Best endeavours duty 

Other important duties that settings must take into account are to use their best endeavours to ensure special educational provision is made.  

Independent providers of special education advice, IPSEA offers free and independent legal based information, advice and support. They have information about best endeavours for SEND provision. 

Further information   

The NHS website has a health A to Z listing which includes more information about many different conditions.  

Citizens Advice explain on their website about making reasonable adjustments for people with disabilities  

The SEND code of practice  is the statutory guidance for organisations which work with and support children and young people who have special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) 

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