Children with special educational needs

A child has special educational needs if they have a learning problem or disability that make it more difficult for them to learn than most children their age. They may have problems with schoolwork, communication or behaviour. Parents can get help and advice from specialists, teachers and voluntary organisations.

What 'special educational needs' means

'Special educational needs' is a legal definition and refers to children with learning problems or disabilities that make it harder for them to learn than most children the same age. 

How schools can help children with special educational needs

A school can usually provide help and sometimes uses specialists. If your child has special educational needs, they may need extra help:

  • with schoolwork
  • reading, writing, number work or understanding information
  • expressing themselves or understanding what others are saying
  • making friends or interacting with adults
  • behaving properly in school
  • organising themselves

They might have sensory or physical needs that affect them in school.

Your child's progress

Children progress at different rates and have different ways in which they learn best. When planning lessons, your child's teacher will take account of this by looking carefully at how they organise their lessons, classroom, books and materials.

The teacher will choose suitable ways to help your child learn. If your child is making slower progress or having particular problems in one area, they may be given extra help or different lessons to help.

Just because your child is making slower progress than you expected or the teachers are providing different support, help or activities in class, this doesn't necessarily mean that your child has special educational needs.

Getting help for your child

Your child's early years are a very important time for their physical, emotional, intellectual and social development. When the health visitor or doctor makes a routine check, they might suggest that there could be a problem. If you have any worries of your own, you should ask for advice right away.

You should ask your child's class teacher, the person in the school responsible for helping children with special educational needs or the headteacher.

You could ask them if:

  • the school thinks your child is having problems
  • your child is able to work at the same level as others of the same age
  • your child is already getting extra help
  • you can help your child

If the school agrees your child has special needs in some areas, they'll use a step-by-step approach to meeting these.

Talking to your child's school

There are some basic principles that everyone  involved in your child's education at school will consider:

  • if your child has special needs, these should be met and they should receive a broad, well-balanced and relevant education
  • your views should always be taken into account and the wishes of your child should be listened to
  • your child's needs will usually be met in a mainstream school, sometimes with the help of outside specialists
  • you should be consulted on all the decisions that affect your child
  • you have a vital role to play in your child's education
  • Special educational needs - A guide for parents

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