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Support for SEND areas of need


The four main areas of SEND need are:

  • communications and interaction
  • cognition and learning
  • social, emotional and mental health difficulties
  • sensory and/or physical needs

(Contact, a national charity, has a very comprehensive list of conditions that may affect a child or young person.) Remove?

Communication and interaction

Communication and interaction conditions may include children and young people who have speech, language and communication needs and/or autism.

They may:

  • have difficulty in communicating with others; they may have difficulty saying what they want to or understanding what is being said to them
  • be delayed in using language and shy away from talking

Children and young people who have communication and interaction needs are supported in schools by their teachers and special educational needs coordinators.

Schools may receive visits and support from the Communication and Interaction Team who work with education settings to help staff to understand the learning, emotional wellbeing and behaviour of children and young people with communication and interaction needs and to develop strategies to support them more effectively.

Cognition and learning

Cognition and learning difficulties can affect children’s ability to learn and do well at school. Specific learning difficulties (SpLD) include a range of conditions such as dyslexia, dyscalculia and dyspraxia.

Children who have needs in more than one of these areas are considered to have ‘complex needs’. A child may also be described as having ‘mild’ or ‘severe’ learning difficulties depending on the degree of need and the impact this has on their lives.

Support for learning difficulties may be needed when children and young people learn at a slower pace than their peers.

Learning difficulties cover a wide range of needs. Pupils with moderate learning difficulties (MLD) may need extra support in some areas of the curriculum.

Those with severe learning difficulties (SLD) are likely to need support in all areas of the curriculum and have associated difficulties with mobility and communication.

Pupils with profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD), 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 and young people experiencing social, emotional and mental health difficulties may be:

  • withdrawn or isolated
  • disruptive and disturbing
  • hyperactive and lack concentration
  • immature in relation to social skills
  • exhibiting challenging behaviour arising from other complex special needs.

This could mean mental health difficulties such as anxiety or depression or they could be self-harming, substance misuse, eating disorders or physical symptoms that are medically unexplained.

They may have disorders such as attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) or attachment disorder and may be frustrated and struggle with school routines and relationships.

Sensory and/or physical needs

Children with sensory or physical needs may have a disability, such as;

  • physical disability
  • vision impairment
  • hearing impairment
  • or a multi-sensory impairment (both hearing and vision difficulties)

They may need specialist equipment to access learning and other opportunities available to their peers.

They may also need habilitation support to help with daily tasks such as eating or travelling.

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