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.