What to do if you think your child has SEND

October 24, 2017 Published by

If you’re concerned that your child may be having difficulties in any area of their development, and you’re not sure where to find help, we would like to reassure you that there is support out there. 

In this post, we will tell you where and what support is available for pre-school and school-age children.


What is SEND?



SEND is an acronym for ‘special education needs and disabilities’.

In 2015, the code of practice for SEND defined this in 2 parts. Firstly defining SEN:

‘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.’

For compulsory school age children, a learning difficulty or disability is when a child:

  • ‘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 of a kind generally provided for others of the same age in mainstream schools or mainstream post-16 institutions’

For children under the age of compulsory schooling, the term SEN is used where they are likely to fall into the above definitions once they reach school age.

Secondly, defining disability for a child or young person as being:

‘…a physical or mental impairment which has a long-term and substantial adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.’

This includes children affected by impaired sight or hearing or who have long-term health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, and cancer. They do not necessarily have SEN, but there can be significant overlap between special educational needs and physical disabilities.

It is not for you to decide if your child meets either or both criteria, however, you may have concerns before anyone else, and therefore it is helpful to know what to do next.


What should you do if you think your child might have SEND?


(Image by United States Navy)


If you have concerns about your child, but they are not yet attending a provision (nursery, childminder, school) you should speak to your health visitor or GP.

For children already in a provision, you should arrange a time to speak to the class teacher. It is best to request a meeting time rather than catch them at the beginning or end of the school day so that you can have dedicated time to talk about your concerns.

It may be helpful to write down your concerns, for example, you may have noticed something unusual during the day while your child is playing, or when you are out and about. This could really help the teacher to understand, as it will complement their observations of your child in school.

You may like to request that the school Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) also attends the meeting, but if not, your child’s teacher is very likely to speak to the SENCO following your meeting. 

All schools have a SENCO who work with teachers and parents to ensure that pupils with special educational needs get the right support and help they need at school. The SENCO may be a class teacher at the school.


What happens next?





For pre-school age children not yet attending a nursery, your health visitor or GP will be able to offer you advice on getting further support. This might be a referral to a specialist service e.g. physiotherapy, speech and language therapy, portage. They will also inform your local authority.

It is the law that an Ofsted-registered nursery, childminders, or playgroup follow the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). This is a framework that providers must meet for the learning, development and care of children under 5. The EYFS states that all registered early years settings must have arrangements in place to support children with SEND. The process to follow to access this support for your child is similar to that outlined above for school-age children.

For children attending school, the law requires them to offer SEN support, and this should meet your child’s needs.  SEN support is a graduated approach, which progresses through 4 stages, following an initial meeting between you and the school:


1. Assess: Gathering information about your child’s needs through talking with you, professionals who work with your child, and looking at any previous reports or records about your child. Assessing a need may be done over a period of time so that there is enough information about the type and level of need your child may have.

2. Plan: Following the assessment, the school will consult with you on the support they will offer your child, and set a review date to check how the support is working.

3. Do: The support is put into place and monitored by the school SENCO or support staff involved.

4. Review: At the prearranged review date, you will meet with the school to discuss how your child is responding to the support. You can also arrange additional meetings if you need to discuss anything between review dates.

Your child’s needs will usually be met through SEN support. However, if their needs are considered more complex, you and the school may consider requesting an Education Health and Care needs assessment.


Getting impartial advice

The thought that your child may have a special education need and/or a disability may be overwhelming, and the thought of initiating discussions with a health or education professional can feel like a daunting prospect.

If you don’t feel ready to talk to a health professional or to raise concerns with your child’s school, you could contact your local IAS Service. This is an impartial, national information advice and support service for disabled children and young people, those with SEN, and their parents.



Written by Penelope Ball, Fundamentally Children Associate



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This post was written by Penelope Ball

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