What does "special educational needs and/or disabilities" mean?

Definition of Special Educational Needs (SEN)

Children with special educational needs all have learning difficulties that make it harder for them to learn than most children of the same age, or they may have a disability that means they can’t access the type of facilities provided for children or young people in a mainstream school or college, or find it difficult to access them. They may need extra or different help from that given to other children or young people of the same age.

Many children and young people may have special educational needs of some kind at some time during their education. Education settings and other organisations can help most children and young people overcome the barriers their difficulties present quickly and easily. However, a small number will need extra help for some or all of their time in education.

Children and young people with special educational needs/disabilities may require extra help because of a range of needs, such as in thinking and understanding, physical or sensory difficulties, emotional, social or mental health issues or difficulties with their speech and language or how they relate to and behave with other people.

Special Educational Needs could mean that a child or young person has:

  • speech, language and communication difficulties which make it difficult for them to make sense of language or to understand how to communicate effectively or appropriately with others;
  • a slower learning pace than others, have difficulty in understanding parts of the curriculum, have difficulty in organising themselves or remembering things or a specific difficulty with one particular part or their learning such as literacy or numeracy;
  • social, emotional and mental health issues which can mean managing relationships with people can be difficult, may be withdrawn or behave in a way that causes problems for themselves and others;
  • a physical or sensory need, such as visual or hearing impairments, or a physical need that means they require extra support or equipment.

The four primary areas of Special Educational Needs are:

  1. Communication and Interaction
  2. Cognition and Learning
  3. Social, Emotional and Mental Health Difficulties
  4. Sensory and/or Physical Needs

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