What are Special Education Needs?

Special education is the practice of educating pupils in a way that is tailored to their individual differences and special needs. There are four special educational needs and disabilities, (SEND) as defined by the Department of Education:

  • Communication and interaction
  • Cognition and learning
  • Social, mental and emotional health
  • Sensory or physical

The 5 most common learning disabilities in classrooms are, 

Dyslexia, involves difficulty reading due to problems identifying speech sounds and learning how they link to words and letters. 

ADHD Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, a condition that includes impact such as inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. It creates symptoms such as short attention span, constantly fidgeting, and acting without prior thought. It is unclear what causes ADHD but it does tend to run in families. 

Dyscalculia is a learning disability resulting in difficulty learning or understanding arithmetic, difficulty understanding numbers, how to manipulate numbers and performing number calculations.

Dysgraphia is a learning disability which impacts on the ability to write, primarily handwriting. It is a writing disorder associated with impaired handwriting and finger sequencing. 

Processing Deficits/disorders, problems with the processing recognising and interpreting information through their senses. The two most common are visual and auditory perception. 

The Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Code of Practice builds on the EYFS Framework and sets out that all providers must have:

  • arrangements in place to support children with SEN or disabilities
  • a clear policy on identifying and responding to children with SEN, with early identification a priority.

Maintained schools must:

  • ensure that children with SEN gets the support they need
  • ensure that children with SEN engage in activities alongside children who do not have SEN
  • designate a teacher to be responsible for co-ordinating SEN provision (the special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO))
  • inform parents when they are making special educational provision for a child.

Who can get SEN Support?

SEN support is the additional support provided to meet the needs of children with special educational needs. This in the UK was previously called early years/school action and early years school action plus. 

There has been an increase in the experience of SEN. Any child can be assessed.

There are four stages of requesting SEN support for your child:

Assessment

Talk to your child’s teacher and SENCO teacher and discuss your concerns. A child over 16 should be fully involved in the discussion. The SENCO teacher will spend time with your child and identify what are their support needs. 

Support planning

The SENCO with you will need to plan how your child will be supported. You need to agree how your child will access support. 

Putting the plan in action

The teachers are responsible for the daily delivery of the support to your child. The SENCO and teachers should involve you and track your child’s progress. 

Review the outcome of the support

The SEN support should be reviewed at agreed intervals. The teacher with the parents and child will decide if the support plan is having the impact required and whether changes need to be made. 

Educational Health and Care Plan

If SEN Support is not sufficient to meet a child’s educational needs, they may need an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP). A parent or school can ask the local authority for an EHC Needs Assessment to see whether they are eligible for an EHCP. If the young person is over the age of 16 they can request one themselves.

Education, health and care plans (EHCPs) have been designed to help children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), and set out how services will work to meet their needs. This is a legally binding plan which should set out the support required, and the structures for delivering it. 

It is a really important document as it can be the difference between the child receiving support and not receiving it as it comes with a requirement if a budget spent.   

Who receives an EHCP? 

Local authorities will decide whether a child or young people needs an EHCP by carrying out an assessment. 

This assessment does not always result in an EHCP being developed. Councils can decide that a school, college or other provider can meet the child or young person’s needs without one.

A parent, young person with SEND over the age of 16 or a representative from a school or other provider can request an EHC assessment.

How long should the process take?

From making a request for an EHC assessment to receiving the completed plan should take no longer than 20 weeks. 

A local authority must decide whether or not to proceed with an EHC needs assessment, and inform the child’s parent or the young person within a maximum of six weeks of receiving the request.

And if a local authority decides not to issue a plan after carrying out an assessment, it should tell parents or the young person within 16 weeks.

The government’s SEND code of practice says that if a plan is produced, the child’s parent or the young person should be given 15 days to provide their views on a draft EHCP and ask for a particular school or other institution to be named in it.

An EHCP should also be reviewed annually.

You will need to be aware for older children that the lack of an EHCP, can cause issues post 18, as not having one will limit the support available from adult services so that is really important for the young person to have a diagnosis and EHCP if they meet the criteria. 

The key to securing support for your child is calm and measured persistence, if you can manage this and a willingness to escalate and evidence what you are arguing. Think about keeping a diary, talking to your child about how they feel the impact of not getting support, know your rights and keep on until you secure the support for your child that they need. 

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