Common SEND needs explained
There are lots of reasons for a child or young person to have special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND). On this page, you can find information on the most common causes across the Bi-Borough.
Click on one of the links below to read about what this type of need may mean for your child:
Many children and young people experience difficulties communicating with others around them. This can include one or more of the following:
- problems understanding what people are saying
- problems making the correct speech sounds
- hoarseness or loss of voice
- problems with using language
- problems interacting with others.
Children and young people who have one of these are said to have speech, language and communication needs (SLCN).
SLCN can occur on its own, or it can be related to another condition or disability such as autism. It is one of the most common reasons for children having special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND). As many as 10% of school pupils may have a form of SLCN.
Some types of SLCN will be ‘persistent’, meaning they will not go away but can be improved with therapies. Other types are ’transient’ meaning that with extra support, the child or young person can be helped to reach the same level as their peers. In Westminster, many primary school pupils receiving support for SLCN will no longer require it by the time they reach secondary school.
Social, Emotional and Mental Health (SEMH) needs refers to difficulties children and young people may experience in one or more of the following:
- failing to manage themselves socially or emotionally
- having low levels of mental and emotional wellbeing
- being unable to regulate themselves and their behaviours
- having a mental health condition
Children and young people can have SEMH regardless of whether they have a mental health diagnosis. They may or may not mean that the child or young person has special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND).
Needs can manifest in many ways depending on the individual and their circumstances. Signs that a child or young people may have SEMH include:
- anxious behaviours
- seeming distant and withdrawn
- becoming frustrated, angry and violent
- self-harm, drug abuse or crime
- disruptive social behaviours
Around 10% of pupils aged 5-16 have a formal mental health diagnosis, and there are a further 15% who show problems which put them at risk of getting a mental health diagnosis in the future.
With the right help and support, SEMH needs are often not permanent and most children and young people with SEMH are able to go on to normal lives in the future.
Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD) refer to difficulties that may impact on a specific area of learning. They are different from learning disabilities where there are generally difficulties experienced across a wide range of areas. Common SpLDs include:
- dyslexia (difficulties with reading)
- dyscalculia (difficulties with understanding maths or numbers)
- dyspraxia (difficulties with coordinating movement)
- dysgraphia (difficulties with writing)
- attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
Nationally, around 2% of school pupils have an SpLD.
Having a SpLD does not indicate general level of intelligence. With the right understanding and support, children and young people with SpLD can go on to lead full and successful lives.
A child or young person with a learning disability will have reduced intellectual abilities and need some more help completing everyday tasks than a person without such a disability. Children and young people with a learning disability may take longer to learn new skills and to understand complex information.
There are different types of learning disability depending on the level of need:
- Children and young people with mild learning disabilities might only require help with their school work and managing difficult tasks like opening a bank account or finding a job.
- Children and young people with moderate learning disabilities may require some help looking after themselves as well as managing more difficult tasks.
- Children and young people with severe or profound learning disabilities may require a full-time carer and significant help with completing a range of everyday tasks.
Around 4% of school pupils have a learning disability. Having a learning disability normally means your child will receive special educational needs and/or disability (SEND) support in school.
It is important to remember that children and young people with learning disabilities are not defined by their diagnosis. With the right support, many children and young people are able to learn skills important to them and achieve fulfilling lives in the community.
For more information and support, have a look at Mencap’s website. Mencap is the biggest UK charity supporting people with a learning disability and their families.
Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) describe a range of conditions affecting social interaction, communication, interests and behaviour. Children and young people with ASD will experience the world differently to people without the condition. However, the way they show this and the level of needs they will have can vary significantly from one child to another.
The two most common signs of ASD include:
- Difficulties with social communication. People with ASD often find it difficult to play or socialise with other children / young people, or to make new friends.
- Repetitive behaviours and activities. People with ASD may show repetitive movements, have fixed daily routines, and be hypersensitive to their environment.
Autism is thought to affect around 1% of the population. The signs of autism normally become apparent at around the age of three years, and needs can often be picked up in 2-2.5-year health visitor reviews.
Although there is no cure for autism, there are a range of therapies that can help to address the child or young person’s needs. With the right support, children and young people with ASD can go on to live high-quality and fulfilling lives.
For more information on ASD, you can visit our Autism Zone (coming soon) or take a look at the National Autistic Society’s website.
Physical disabilities refer to a wide range of mental and physical impairments which have a long-lasting and substantial effect on a child or young person’s ability to carry out a day-to-days tasks.
Children and young people can have physical disabilities for a number of reasons including birth defects, medical conditions or injury. Some children and young people with physical disabilities will have severe or complex needs requiring multi-agency support across health, social care and education services. Others will have a milder disability with significantly lower level of need.
Approximately 0.2% of children and young people living in the Bi-Borough have a physical disability of some kind.
Sensory impairment refers to loss of function in one of the senses; sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch or spatial awareness. The most common types of sensory impairment among children and young people are visual and hearing impairments.
Children and young people with visual impairment will experience some degree of sight loss. Approximately 0.3% of the children and young people in the Bi-Borough have a visual impairment.
If a child or young person has partial sightedness this means that their ability to see is significantly reduced compared to their peers and cannot be corrected with glasses. People with partial sightedness are usually able to distinguish the objects around them and can benefit from adaptations such as use of high contrast colours and large print.
Children and young people with severe sight impairment will have extreme difficulty distinguishing objects around them. High contrast and use of large print will not normally benefit a person with severe sight impairment. If a child or young person is blind, this means they will be unable to tell the difference between light and dark.
There can be many different causes of visual impairment in childhood including congenital disorders, medical conditions, and injury.
Both children and young people with partial sightedness and those who are severely sight impaired or blind can normally learn and develop to the same level as their peers. However, they will often need the support of specialist professionals in visual impairment to help ensure the best outcomes.
The Westminster Special Schools Training and Outreach Service consists of a team of specialist professionals who can support children and young people with visual impairment.
You might also want to have a look at the website for the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), which is the largest charity supporting people with visual impairment.
Hearing impairment refers to any degree of hearing loss. There are different levels of impairment, ranging from the more common mild hearing loss, to the much rarer profound deafness where there may be no functional hearing. Approximately 1% of children and young people living in the Bi-Borough have a type of hearing impairment.
Causes of hearing impairment range from congenital disorders, medical conditions or injury. Sometimes hearing impairment can be due to a treatable cause such as glue ear or build-up of earwax. However, even if the actual cause is not able to be addressed, in the vast majority of cases there are still interventions that can boost hearing levels such as hearing aids and cochlear implants.
With the right support at the earliest opportunity, children and young people with hearing impairment can learn and develop at the same level as their peers.
The Westminster Special Schools Training and Outreach Service consists of a team of specialist professionals who can support children and young people with hearing impairment.
You might also like to read more information about hearing impairment on the National Deaf Children’s Charity’s website.
Long term conditions are medical conditions or disabilities that have significant impact on a child or young person’s health and wellbeing. The most common long term conditions include asthma, type 1 diabetes, and epilepsy.
Asthma is a condition that makes the airways swell up so that it is difficult to breathe. It can result in signs including coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. It is important that asthma is identified and properly managed so that it does not interfere with daily activities or result in an asthma attack which can be life-threatening.
For more information and support if you or your child has asthma, you might want to visit Asthma UK website.
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is a condition that means the body is unable to regulate sugar levels. Signs of the condition are increasing levels of tiredness, weight loss, blurred vision and slowed healing of cuts and bruises.
Treatment of type 1 diabetes can prevent these symptoms. If left unmanaged it can result in serious complications including damage of blood vessels, nerves and organs.
If you would like more information or support regarding type 1 diabetes, you can visit Diabetes UK.
Epilepsy is a condition that affects electrical activity in the brain. It can result in seizures which is where a person may lose consciousness for a short time or display convulsive movements through their body. How epilepsy affects a child or young person can vary. Treatment is usually able to manage the symptoms of epilepsy so that its impact on daily activities is minimised.
The Epilepsy Society is a UK charity which can offer more information and support if you or your child have epilepsy.
Medical Conditions Affecting School Attendance
Sometimes a medical condition will mean that a child or young person has to spend a significant amount of time out of school. The local authority’s Medical Needs Policy aims to address the needs of these children and ensure that their condition has as little impact as possible on their learning and development.