Children With Special Needs

If your child needs extra help or has special educational needs, then help is at hand from schools.

Special educational needs (otherwise known as SEN) is the term used to refer to children who have disabilities or learning difficulties that mean it’s more difficult for them to learn in the same way as their peers. For example, they may need extra help with particular subjects or skills, such as reading, writing, numbers or understanding information. Or they may need help with expressing themselves, behaving at school, making friends or organising themselves. In some cases, children have physical or sensory needs that affect them at school and need help dealing with this.

What To Do If Your Child Needs Help

Sometimes a child’s special needs may be picked up by a medical professional or when they’re at nursery or pre-school, but in other situations they don’t emerge until later on. If you think your child may need a bit of extra help and they’re at or just going to, primary school, then it’s a good idea to either speak to the head teacher, your child’s teacher or the person who’s in charge of special educational needs at the school (called the SENCO).

When you’re chatting to the school about your child, discuss your concerns and ask for their opinion on the abilities of your child (for example they may do better at school than you think or their learning ability may be in line with their peers). Some of the questions you could ask include:

  • Do you think my child is having difficulties at school or has special educational needs?
  • Is my child getting any extra help?
  • Does my child’s ability of learning differ from that of his peers, or are they able to work at the same level?
  • How can I help my child?
  • What help is available from the school to help my child?

What Might Happen?

Depending on the needs of your child, the school will either be able to meet them themselves and provide extra help or assistance to your child (many schools have a plan called School Action that is implemented), or the local education authority may need to be involved to assess your child and see how they can be supported in the best way. Sometimes the School Action is tried first, before involving the local authority.

If the local authority does need to be involved, then a proper assessment of your child will be carried out by a specialist. This will help provide a detailed idea of exactly what special needs your child has and of how the school and teachers can help meet the needs. It’s possible for either you, as the parent, or the school to request an assessment, but if one is required the school will always let you know first.

You’ll be able to attend the assessment and the local authority may seek the views of other people too, such as doctor, medical expert, social services (if they know your child) and educational psychologist. You’ll also be asked for your views and input too.

Once all the information is gathered, the local authority experts will go off and assess the details they’ve gathered. In some cases, they may decide to make a statement – also called statementing your child – where they provide details of your child’s needs and how they need to be met.