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What are Special Educational Needs and Disabilities?

What are Special Educational Needs and Disabilities?

A child or young person has SEN if they have a learning difficulty or disability which calls for special educational provision to be made for him or her.  A child of compulsory school age or a young person has a learning difficulty or disability if he or she:

  • has a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others of the same age, or 
  • has a disability which prevents or hinders him or her from making use of facilities generally provided for others of the same age in mainstream schools.    

  There are four broad areas of SEN needs:

  • Communication and interaction:
  • Children with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) have difficulty in communicating with others. This may be because they have difficulty saying what they want to, understanding what is being said to them or they do not understand or use social rules of communication. They may have difficulty with one, some or all of the different aspects of speech, language or social communication at different times of their lives.
  • Cognition and learning
  • Support for learning difficulties may be required when children learn at a slower pace than their peers, even with appropriate differentiation. Learning difficulties cover a wide range of needs, including moderate learning difficulties (MLD), severe learning difficulties (SLD), where children are likely to need support in all areas of the curriculum and associated difficulties with mobility and communication, through to profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD), where  children are likely to have severe and complex learning difficulties as well as a physical disability or sensory impairment
  • Social, emotional and mental health difficulties
  • Children may experience a wide range of social and emotional difficulties which manifest themselves in many ways. These may include becoming withdrawn or isolated, as well as displaying challenging, disruptive or disturbing behaviour. These behaviours may reflect underlying mental health difficulties such as anxiety or depression, self-harming, substance misuse, eating disorders or physical symptoms that are medically unexplained. Other children and young people may have disorders such as attention deficit disorder, attention deficit hyperactive disorder or attachment disorder.
  • Sensory and/or physical needs
  • Some children require special educational provision because they have a disability which prevents or hinders them from making use of the educational facilities generally provided. These difficulties can be age related and may fluctuate over time. Many children and young people with vision impairment (VI), hearing impairment (HI) or a multi-sensory impairment (MSI) will require specialist support and/or equipment to access their learning, or habitation support. Children with an MSI have a combination of vision and hearing difficulties.