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I think my child might have special needs

If you think your child or young person might have a special educational need or disability (SEND), it can be really worrying.  The purpose of this section of Plymouth's local offer is to give you some ideas about what to do next. 

What is SEND?

There are legal definitions of Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). The SEND Code of Practice is guidance on the laws which affect SEND. This extract from the SEND Code of Practice explains what Special Educational Needs (SEN) means.

A child or young person has SEN if they have a learning difficulty or disability which calls for special educational provision to be made for him or her.
A child of compulsory school age or a young person has a learning difficulty or disability if he or she:

  • has a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others of the same age, or
  • has a disability which prevents or hinders him or her from making use of facilities of a kind generally provided for others of the same age in mainstream schools or mainstream post-16 institutions

For children aged two or more, special educational provision is educational or training provision that is additional to or different from that made generally for other children or young people of the same age by mainstream schools, maintained nursery schools, mainstream post-16 institutions or by relevant early years providers.

For a child under two years of age, special educational provision means education provision of any kind. A child under compulsory school age has special educational needs if he or she is likely to fall within the definition in the paragraph above when they reach compulsory school age or would do so if a special educational provision was not made for them (Section 20 Children and Families Act 2014).

Many children and young people who have SEN may have a disability under the Equality Act 2010 - that is '...a physical or mental impairment which has a long-term and substantial adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities'. This definition provides a relatively low threshold and includes more children than many realise: 'long-term' is defined as 'a year or more' and 'substantial' is defined as 'more than minor or trivial'. This definition includes sensory impairments such as those affecting sight or hearing, and long-term health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, and cancer. Children and young people with such conditions do not necessarily have SEN, but there is a significant overlap between disabled children and young people and those with SEN. Where a disabled child or young person requires special educational provision they will also be covered by the SEN definition.

What can I do as a parent or carer?

Look for specific behaviours or trigger points. Keep a diary of significant behaviours.  If your child is in the early years' foundation stage, you may find What are schools expected to provide? useful because it highlights what you may see your child doing at different ages. If you are worried about your child's development, you can talk to nursery or pre-school workers, teachers or a Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCo) about the support for your child needs.

If your child is in a primary or secondary school, the first person to talk to is the class teacher or tutor.  Through this discussion, you may go on to take your concerns to the SENCO so that you can decide the amount and type of support that your child needs.

There is also independent advice and support available through Plymouth Information, Advice and Support for SEND.

What should I expect from my child's school?

When a child needs additional support at school, schools must:

  • identify and assess if a child has SEND and put in place additional support
  • inform parents about the assessment and put in place a plan for the additional provision
  • use best endeavours to make sure children get the support they need
  • ensure that children with SEND engage in the same activities that all other learners do
  • review progress with the family. 

This approach is called the Graduated Response or 'assess, plan, do, review'. You can find out more about it in the What are schools expected to provide? section of this website.


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This page is part of Plymouth's Local Offer.

This page was last updated on 06 December 2019

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