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What do I do if I think my child has SEN?

A person has Special Educational Needs if they have a learning difficulty or disability which means they need special educational support. Disability is when a person has a physical or mental difficulty which has a significant and long-term effect on their ability to carry out activities. This can include a long-term illness. How to get a diagnosis and how to access support will depend on the type of difficulty a person has.

Some Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) may be identified very early in a child’s life but others may not be diagnosed until they are older. 

How are special educational needs identified?

All children are individual and will develop at different rates. Schools and early years settings (such as nurseries), have a responsibility to identify children with SEND. Health or care professionals can also identify SEN

The term special educational needs (SEN) is a definition for when children have learning difficulties or impairments that impact on their education. 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

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.

The law says that children do not have learning difficulties just because their first language is not English. Of course some of these children may have learning difficulties as well.

Children with special educational needs may need extra help because of a range of needs, such as in thinking and understanding, physical or sensory difficulties, emotional and behavioural difficulties, or difficulties with speech and language or how they relate to and behave with other people.

Many children will have special educational needs of some kind at some time during their education. Schools and other organisations can help most children overcome the barriers their difficulties present quickly and easily. But a few children will need extra help for some or all of their time in school

Some children’s difficulties only become noticeable as they go through primary or occasionally even secondary school. Your child’s school will take steps to identify what the difficulties are and may give your child extra help. For most children this is sufficient to enable them to learn effectively

What types of SEN are there?

Children may have difficulties in one or more areas. Here are some examples:

  • Thinking, understanding and learning: these children may find all learning activities difficult, or have particular difficulties with some learning activities such as reading and spelling.
  • Emotional and behavioural difficulties: these children may have very low self-esteem and lack confidence. They may find it difficult to follow rules or settle down and behave properly in school.
  • Speech, language and communication: these children may have difficulty in expressing themselves or understanding what others are saying to them. They may find it hard to make friends or relate to others. They may find it difficult to make sense of the world around them or to organise themselves.
  • Physical or sensory difficulties: these children may have a disability or a medical condition that has an impact upon their learning. They may have a visual or hearing impairment.

What do I do if I think my child has SEN?

Talk to your child’s early years setting, school, GP or health visitor if you are worried about their development or behaviour. They will discuss any concerns you have, tell you what they think and explain to you what kind of support your child may need.

Make some notes before speaking to staff or professionals so that you have clear examples of what you are worried about. It is important to check out if the difficulties are significant and, if so, how your child can be helped.

What happens if my child has SEN?

The first and most important thing to remember is that all children with SEN are entitled to receive a broad, balanced and suitable education which includes the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum (for children aged 3 to 5) or the National Curriculum (for children aged 5 to 16).

Most children with SEN have their needs met in a mainstream school or early years settings, although some children with more complex needs benefit from the more specialist help offered in a ‘special’ school.

You should be told how your child's early years or school setting will be helping your child. Your views are very important and so are your child’s own views. The school should make sure that you are involved in all decisions that affect your child because you have a vital role in supporting your child’s education.

Teams and professionals that I may come into contact with.

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