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Special Educational Needs & Disabilities

What do we mean by special educational needs or disabilities?
‘Special Educational Needs’ (often shortened to SEN) describes the needs of children who have a difficulty or disability that makes learning harder for them than most children of the same age.  SEN can cover a broad range of needs that includes physical development; visual or hearing impairment; difficulties with speech and language; emotional and behavioural difficulties; difficulties with thinking and understanding. Disability is a term used for a recognised condition experienced by the child, usually diagnosed quite early in their lives.

Some services use different words, terms or description to cover special educational needs.  For example, organisations that provide services and support to young people aged 16 years and over will often use the term: learning difficulties or learning disabilities (LDD).  The Croydon offer of services will use the more general term ‘special needs’ based on feedback from parents who think this is a more helpful term. 

Schools and other organisations can quickly and easily help most children overcome the barriers arising from their special needs.  A few children will need extra help for some or all of their time in education.

How / when might your child be identified as having special needs?
A child or young person has a special need if they have a learning difficulty or disability which calls for special educational provision to be made for them.
A child with special needs could have difficulties with:

  • All of the work in school
  • Reading, writing, numbers or understanding information
  • Expressing themselves or understanding what others are saying
  • Making friends or relating to people
  • Organising themselves
  • Personal care
  • Understanding and meeting school expectations.

They may also have a sensory or physical health need which may affect them in school. School staff are generally good at identifying and supporting children with special needs and they usually have a range of resources that they can use for this.

What happens if my child is identified as having special needs?
Staff at your child’s nursery, pre-school or school will share any concerns they have about your child with you. If you are concerned about your child’s educational progress speak with your child’s nursery/ pre-school or teacher. If your child is not yet attending an educational setting, speak with your doctor or health visitor who will be able to give you advice on the next steps to take.

All early years settings and schools have a special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO) or inclusion lead.  They will talk to you about your child’s needs and how the setting can best support them. If it is decided that your child needs additional or different support beyond that which is usually available for others of the same age, the SENCO and other school staff will provide support and plan for your child’s needs.  The SENCO will co-ordinate the support for your child and will liaise with other professionals such as the Educational Psychologists (EP) or Speech and Language Therapists to make sure that the support available is meeting the needs.  Every maintained school and academy has an attached EP who works with parents and school staff to find the best possible way of supporting children with special needs. If it is clear that more support is needed than is ordinarily available, the SENCO is the key person to take forward a referral for statutory assessment presenting evidence from all the professionals involved. Parents’ views and knowledge will be taken into account when support is planned for their child.

Lots more information can be found on the website.

020 3131 3150 (SEND Helpline)
How to apply:
Referrals to the Early Years SEND team will be accepted from health, other professionals or directly from families.

Related Information

Service Definitions

CAMHS is a term used to refer to mental health services for children and adolescents. CAMHS are usually multidisciplinary teams including psychiatrists psychologists, nurses, social workers and others.

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