Does your child have special educational needs?

Angry little girl
Find out about the wide spectrum of special educational needs children can have – and how you can support them.

A child is considered to have a special educational need if they have a learning difficulty that calls for special educational provision to be made for them.

Parents, teachers and childcare practitioners usually find out if a child has a need if they have greater difficulty learning than the majority of other children of the same age, or if the child has a disability that prevents or hinders them from making use of educational facilities provided.

Types of special educational needs

The term special educational needs (SEN) refers to a wide spectrum of different needs. These needs can be broken down into more specific areas.

Social, emotional and behavioural disorders

Asperger Syndrome
This is often seen as a form of autism because of several similar characteristics, such as difficulty in socialising and using the imagination. However, children with Asperger generally learn to speak at an early age and the condition might not be recognised until after they start school.

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Children with these conditions find it difficult to concentrate and are easily distracted. This often leads to problems with learning and behaviour. The hyperactivity element might be noticed in excessive talking and movement or impulsive actions.

Autism
This is a non-progressive developmental disorder that usually appears before the age of three. Signs of autism are difficulties with social interaction, communication, imagination and behaviour. It is known as a spectrum disorder because symptoms can vary from mild to severe.

Learning difficulties

Dyslexia
This affects the ability to read, write and spell and can occur despite normal intelligence and teaching. About 10 per cent of the UK population is estimated to have some form of dyslexia and it varies from mild to extreme.

Dyscalculia
Like dyslexia, this is a specific disability that affects a person's ability to deal with numbers. It relates to numerical aspects of life, such as telling the time, dealing with money and measuring things.

Acalculia
This is different from dyscalculia in that it describes the inability to perform basic mathematical processes of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

Dyspraxia
This is a motor learning disability characterised by a lack of coordination which affects the ability to deal with everyday tasks. Children with dyspraxia have no neurological abnormality to explain its cause.

Speech, Language and Communication Disability
Children who have problems expressing themselves and understanding others may find it difficult to build relationships and learn.

Down’s Syndrome
Affecting one in every 1,000 people, Down’s Syndrome is a chromosomal disorder and one of the most common causes of learning difficulties.

Sensory impairment

Hearing Impairment
This refers to a range of hearing loss from mild to totally deaf and can refer to children born with hearing loss or those who develop it later in life.

Visual Impairment
This covers people who are partially sighted or blind. Severe or total loss of vision can occur when parts of the eye or brain that process images become damaged through disease or trauma.