What defines a child as being disabled?

The Disability Discrimination Act 2005 defines a disabled person as one who has “a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities” and provides exclusions and clarifications to this definition.

KIDS defines it as an individual with a physical, sensory or mental impairment (including mental health issues) which, in interaction with social, attitudinal and environmental constraints, creates barriers that hinder their full and equal participation in society.

Does it matter having a diagnosis of my child's disability?

It may be important to you as a parent to have a diagnosis, and also to your child so, as they get older, they can understand why they can't hear or walk or have an impairment.

However, for many practical purposes, it doesn't make any difference whether you have a diagnosis or not. This is because:

  • You have a right to have a social services assessment of your child's needs and as a parent or carer, your needs, whether your child has a named diagnosis or not.
  • Support should be tailored to your child's needs not based on the name of their condition. Similarly entitlement to receive benefits such as Disability Living Allowance is on the basis of the difficulties that your child has and support they require.
  • Your child is entitled to have an extra or different support to help them at school, if they need it. This does not depend on knowing the cause of their learning difficulties.
What is the Common Assessment Framework?

The common assessment framework (CAF) is a standardised approach for the assessment of children and their families, to facilitate the early identification of additional needs and to promote a coordinated service response.

CAF is underpinned by an integrated approach to support and has been designed for use by all professionals working with children and families with additional needs.

The process is entirely voluntary and informed consent is mandatory, so families do not have to engage and if they do they can choose what information they want to share. 

What is a Special Educational Need?

A child may have a Special Educational Need (SEN) if he or she has a learning difficulty and this may have come about for all sorts of reasons. For example:

  • physical needs or impairments
  • reading and writing (eg dyslexia)
  • understanding things
  • concentrating (eg Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
  • behavioural/social (eg difficulty making friends)


An “assessment” of special educational needs is carried out by the local authority. Experts and people involved in your child’s education will be asked about your child’s needs and what should be done to meet them.


Children under 5

SEN support for children under 5 includes:

  • a written progress check when your child is 2 years old
  • a child health visitor carrying out a health check for your child if they’re aged 2 to 3
  • a written assessment in the summer term of your child’s first year of primary school
  • making reasonable adjustments for disabled children, eg providing aids like tactile signs

Children between 5 and 15

Talk to the teacher or the SEN coordinator (SENCO). Support can include:

  • a special learning programme
  • extra help from a teacher or assistant
  • to work in a smaller group
  • observation in class or at break     
  • help taking part in class activities
  • extra encouragement in their learning, eg to ask questions or to try something they find difficult
  • help communicating with other children
  • support with physical or personal care difficulties, eg eating, getting around school safely or using the toilet

Young people aged 16 or over in further education

The college and your local authority will talk to your child about the support they need. 

Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan

Education, Health and Care plans are for children and young people, aged up to 25, who need more support than is available through special educational needs support.

EHC plans identify educational, health and social needs and set out the additional support to meet those needs. 

What are SENDIAS Services?

SENDIAS Services (formally known as Parent Partnership Services) offer information, advice and support for parents/carers of children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). There is a SENDIAS Service in every local authority. The IASS Network for SEND can help you to find your local service. 

What are Short Breaks?

Short Breaks provide the primary carer of a disabled child a break from their caring responsibilities whilst giving the child an opportunity to have fun, enjoy new experiences and develop skills.

Short breaks can take the form of:

  • Daytime care in the home or elsewhere
  • Overnight care in the home or elsewhere
  • Leisure activities outside the home
  • Services available to assist carers in the evenings, at weekends and during school holidays

Short breaks come in many different forms and can last anything from a couple of hours to days. The length and type of break will depend on your child, young person and family.

What are Personal Budgets?

A Personal Budget is the clear, up-front total amount of funding allocated by a particular service (social care/health/education) to meet the assessed support needs of a particular child. It is used to purchase the services and support required by a disabled child to meet their specific requirements and to live a more independent life.

What are Direct Payments?

Direct Payments are where a family receives the funds of a Personal Budget and then sources (and pays for) the services and support they require directly from the providers. 

What is Brokerage?

Is a service provided by an organisation or individual that helps families to manage their personal budget and spend it in the most appropriate manner. For instance, a broker could assist getting a particular service, or could sort out paying a support worker. 

How can KIDS help me?
We provide a wide range of services and support for disabled children and young people along with their families across different parts of the country. Find out more... 

Or feel free to contact any of our regional office, the details, for which, can be found here.
What are the SEND reforms?
Major changes to services for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are being made. The changes are aimed at: making the system simpler and more joined up putting children, young people and their families at the heart of the assessment and planning process helping those with SEND to succeed in their education and make a successful transition to adulthood