The people involved if your child has special educational needs

Below is a list of people and a short description of their possible involvement if you have a child with special educational needs.

Community Paediatrician

Your Community Paediatrician is a specialist doctor who plays a key role in the identification of children who may have special educational needs. This professional is able to assess your child’s needs. As well as advising you about health matters, this doctor may discuss with you concerns about possible learning problems.

With your agreement, this doctor will pass on significant concerns to the Education Authority (EA) in your region. Community Paediatricians are employed by the Health and Social Services Trusts.

Designated Medical Officer

This is likely to be a Community Paediatrician. The Designated Medical Officer has the responsibility for the collection of all  statutory medical and social services advice.

Every child must have a medical examination as part of a statutory  assessment. The exact nature of this examination will depend on whether or not your child has medical problems. Most children receive only a basic medical examination to be sure that they do not have significant medical needs.

Educational Psychologist

An Educational Psychologist must give the EA in your region advice as part of your child’s statutory assessment. An educational psychologist is a psychology graduate who has gained a post-graduate qualification in developmental and educational psychology.

Educational psychologists are also qualified and experienced teachers. They are able to advise on the educational needs of children and young people and to suggest ways of helping your child.

Health Visitor

A Health Visitor is a qualified nurse who has undertaken extra specialist training. They may refer pre-school children with special educational needs to the Community Paediatrician. Your Health Visitor may be asked by the Designated Medical Officer to provide advice as part of the statutory assessment process.

Learning Support Teacher

A Learning Support Teacher is employed by the EA. They will have experience in teaching children with learning problems. This teacher may help your child directly or may support teachers in school.

Named Officer

The statutory assessment process is complex and sometimes difficult for parents to understand. In order to be sure that parents can get quick and relevant help, the EA makes sure that you will know the name and contact details of a person who can advise, assist and support you. They are usually an officer employed in the Special Education Section of the EA in your region.

Occupational Therapist

The Occupational Therapist is trained to provide assessment, treatment and rehabilitation for children and young people who have a physical, co-ordination and processing problems.

The Designated Medical Officer may ask an Occupational Therapist to give advice as a contribution to the statutory assessment process. Occupational Therapists are employed by the Health and Social Services Trusts.


A Physiotherapist is trained to provide assessment and treatment in overcoming movement and physical challenges such as problems of balance, coordination, sitting, standing and walking.

The Designated Medical Officer may ask a Physiotherapist to give advice as a contribution to the statutory assessment process. Physiotherapists are employed by the Health and Social Services Trusts.

Special Educational Needs Coordinator (often called a “SENCO”)

Every grant-aided school must have a SENCO. The SENCO is a member of staff who has responsibility for coordinating special educational needs provision. In a small school the SENCO may be the principal. The SENCO will be able to answer many of your more detailed questions about how the school are meeting your child’s special educational needs.

Social Worker

A Social Worker is trained to provide support and advice for parents and families. Social Workers may contribute Welfare Advice to the statutory assessment. Social Workers are employed by the Health & Social Services Trusts.

School-based Assistants

Some pupils with special educational needs require more help than it is reasonable to expect a teacher to provide. Depending on pupils’ special educational needs, school may employ a variety of assistants.

For example, there are classroom assistants, general assistants, supervisory assistants and learning support assistants. Assistants work under the overall direction of the school’s principal. If your child has an assistant, then s/he will be part of the team assigned to meet your child’s special educational needs.

Speech and Language Therapist

A Speech and Language Therapist is trained to assess, diagnose, manage and treat speech and language problems. They also provide support and advice for parents and schools.

Speech and Language Therapists may contribute to Education Plans and Medical Advice as part of the statutory assessment process. Speech and Language Therapists are employed by the Health & Social Services Trusts.

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