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What are special educational needs?

What are special educational needs?

August 24, 2020

If a child has a learning difficulty or a disability that makes it more difficult for them to learn compared to peers of the same age, then they have what is referred to as special educational needs or SEN for short. Children with special educational needs are more likely to need support and help to learn at school. This help should be provided by your local authority.

What are the different types of special educational needs?

There are various difficulties that a child might have, which would be covered under the umbrella term of special educational needs. Some examples are as follows:

  • Cognitive and learning differences – if a child has delayed cognitive skills or finds learning activities difficult. For example, if they have a disability such as autism or dyslexia. 
  • Speech, language and communication difficulties – if a child is non-verbal, has limited speech or finds it difficult to communicate with others. 
  • Emotional and behavioural difficulties – if a child finds it hard to concentrate at school and behaves inappropriately. For example, this could be because they suffer from low-self esteem and lack confidence or because they have a neurological disorder.
  • Sensory needs - if a child has particular sensory needs that impacts on their day-to-day life. Perhaps they need a quieter working environment or specific aids to help them concentrate
  • Physical needs – if a child has a physical disability or medical condition that means that they require extra support, for example a child who is visually impaired or has a condition such as cerebral palsy.

language speech activities educations special needs

If you’re at the start of your child’s educational journey, it is important to liaise with your GP or your child’s paediatrician regarding any concerns that you may have. An Educational Psychologist may be assigned to watch your child interact at nursery and you may find that you have a team of professionals supporting your child, such as an Occupational Therapist and Speech and Language Therapist. These professionals should provide input into what they feel will be the best educational setting for them and what support your child will need.

If your child has special educational needs, it’s important that you work with their nursery or school to ensure that they are getting the correct support. It could be that a mainstream school can meet their needs with extra support in place, however it is possible that if your child has complex needs that a special needs/SEN school might be best placed to meet their requirements.

Depending on your child’s needs, you might be provided with a support plan to ensure that their educational, health and social needs are set out with the additional support to meet those needs. The terminology for this may differ depending on where you live in the UK, but in England, this is called an EHCP (Education, Health and Care Plan).

It’s important to remember that every child has the right to an education. Inclusion is a right, not a privilege. If you find that you are having difficulties with your child’s school that cannot be resolved, there are some great educational resources that can offer you free and independent advice. SpecialKids Company has previously blogged about these here.


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