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Areas of Need

There are four broad areas of special educational need, these are: 

  • Communication and Interaction (for example: Autism Spectrum Condition and those with Speech, Language and Communication Needs)

  • Cognition and Learning (for example: Specific Learning Difficulties, Moderate Learning Difficulties, Severe Learning Difficulties and Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties)

  • Social, Emotional and Mental Health Difficulties (for example: emotional, social or mental health need that is impacting on their ability to learn)

  • Sensory and/or Physical Difficulties (for example: hearing impairment, visual impairment, multi-sensory impairment and physical difficulties)

Here is some additional information on each broad area of need:

Communication & Interaction

Children and young people with SEN may have difficulties in one or more of the areas of their speech, language and communication (SLCN). These children and young people need help to develop their linguistic competence in order to support their thinking, as well as their communication skills. Specific learning difficulties (SpLD) such as dyslexia or a physical or sensory impairment such as hearing loss may also lead to communication difficulties.  

Those with SLCN needs cover the whole ability range. They find it more difficult to communicate with others and may have problems taking part in conversations, either because they find it difficult to understand what others say or because they have difficulties with fluency and forming sounds, words and sentences. It may be that when they hear or see a word they are not able to understand its meaning, leading to words being used incorrectly in or out of context and the child having a smaller vocabulary. It may be a combination of these problems. For some children and young people, difficulties may become increasingly apparent as the language they need to understand and use becomes more complex.  

Children and young people with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), including Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism, have difficulty in making sense of the world in the way others do. They may have difficulties with communication, social interaction and imagination. In addition they may be easily distracted or upset by certain stimuli, have problems with change to familiar routines or have difficulties with their co-ordination and fine-motor functions.

Cognition and Learning

Children and young people with learning difficulties will learn at a slower pace than other children and may have greater difficulty than their peers in acquiring basic skills or in understanding concepts, even with appropriate differentiation. They may also have other difficulties such as speech and language delay, low self-esteem, low levels of concentration and under-developed social skills.  

Children and young people with a learning difficulty are at increased risk of developing a mental health problem. They may need additional support with their social development, self-esteem and emotional well-being.  

Children with Moderate Learning Difficulties (MLD) may have difficulties resulting in school attainments below expected levels in many areas of the curriculum, despite additional support.  Children and young people with severe learning difficulties (SLD) have significant intellectual or cognitive impairments and are likely to need support in all areas of the curriculum. They may have difficulties in mobility and co-ordination, communication and perception, and the acquisition of self-help skills. Children and young people with SLD are likely to need support to be independent. Those with profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD) have severe and complex learning difficulties as well as significant other difficulties such as a physical disability or a sensory impairment. They are likely to need sensory stimulation and a curriculum broken down into very small steps. These children and young people require a high level of adult support, both for their educational needs and for their personal care.  

A child or young person with a Specific learning difficulty (SpLD) may have difficulty with one or more aspects of learning. This includes a range of conditions such as dyslexia (difficulties with reading and spelling); dyscalculia (maths); dyspraxia (co-ordination) and dysgraphia (writing).

Social, Emotional & Mental Health (SEMH)

 For some children, difficulties in their emotional and social development, can mean that they require additional and different provision in order for them to achieve. Children and young people who have difficulties with their emotional and social development may have immature social skills and find it difficult to make and sustain healthy relationships. These difficulties may be displayed through the child becoming withdrawn or isolated from their peers, as well as through challenging, disruptive or disturbing behaviour.  

A wide range of mental health problems might require special provision to be made. These could manifest as difficulties such as problems of mood (anxiety or depression), problems of conduct (oppositional problems and more severe conduct problems including aggression), self-harming, or physical symptoms that are medically unexplained. Some children and young people may have other recognised disorders such as attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), attachment disorder, autism or an anxiety disorder.

Sensory and/or Physical Needs

There is a wide range of sensory and physical difficulties that affect children across the ability range.  Many children and young people require minor adaptations to the curriculum, their study programme or the physical environment. Many such adaptations may be required as reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act 2010.  

Children and young people with a visual impairment (VI) or a hearing impairment (HI) may require specialist support and equipment to access their learning. Children and young people with a Multi-Sensory Impairment (MSI) have a combination of visual and hearing difficulties, which makes it much more difficult for them to access the curriculum or study programme than those with a single sensory impairment. Some children and young people with a physical disability (PD) require additional on-going support and equipment to access all the opportunities available to their peers.

Here are some additional websites and resources to support learning:

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