Special Educational Needs and Disabilities
'The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows'. – Sidney Harris
What does SEN mean and What is SEN Support?
SEN/SEND stands for Special Educational Needs/ Special Educational Needs and Disabilities. A pupil is identified as having Special Educational Needs if they are finding it harder than other pupils to make progress. This may be due to a specific learning difficulty, a recognised disability such as a hearing impairment, emotional, mental health or social difficulties, or speech and language difficulties. Some pupils will only receive support for SEN in school for a short time, others may receive support for their entire time in education. Schools have a SEN register that records all SEND pupils, and schools are expected to track the progress of these pupils closely.
Children with SEN are likely to need some extra or different support from other children of their age, and there are lots of different ways that teachers and educators can offer this to ensure that all children are able to access the education system.
What is SEN Provision?
Since September 1st, 2014, the SEND code of practice has been in effect. The aim of the reforms it brought about was to join provision across education, health, and care, which now spans birth to 25. Intervention should be made at the earliest possible point in a child or young person’s life and they and their parents should be fully involved in decisions regarding their support and outcomes.
SEN provision is all about providing every child with the best possibility to succeed in their learning, and recognising that this will mean using different strategies for each child. Teachers are responsible and accountable for the progress and development of the children in their class, even where children access support from Learning Support Assistants or specialist staff. By being aware of how children learn best, we can decide how best to support them in reaching their full potential by providing an appropriate learning environment and teaching strategies for their needs.
Individualised learning plans can help educators to understand how best to tailor their teaching to ensure that pupils with SEND are able to access the learning and are supported across their range of needs which may include social and life skills as well as academic progress.
What are the different types of SEN in school?
The term SEN covers lots of different difficulties children may have. There are considered to be four main types of SEN. Many children identified as having SEN will have more than one of these types of need:
Cognition and Learning - children with cognition and learning needs may have a specific learning difference such as dyslexia, they may have a global developmental delay which affects their cognitive development, or they may have difficulties with working memory, affecting their ability to learn new information and skills.
Social, Emotional and Mental Health - children with SEMH needs may find it difficult to regulate their emotions, or may have difficulties with their mental health. They may present with challenging behaviours, or find social situations difficult.
Communication and Interaction - children with communication and interaction needs may have specific speech and language difficulties. Many Autistic children also have communication and interaction needs.
Physical and Sensory - this encompasses those with physical disabilities, and those who have sensory needs such as sensory avoiding or sensory seeking behaviours.
SEN covers a huge range of needs, and there is often a lot of overlap in the terminologies that are used. The groupings above are typically used for schools to understand how best to support different children. If children receive an EHCP (education, health and care plan), their needs are grouped into these 4 areas.
How are SEND Identified?
SEND can be identified at an early age, but for some pupils they may not be recognised or diagnosed until a later point. Schools will observe and monitor assessments of pupils regularly to identify students who may be making less progress than expected given their age and individual circumstances. Persistent withdrawn or disruptive behaviours can also be taken into consideration, as they may indicate that a child's needs are not being met.