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What are special educational needs?

The term 'special educational needs' (SEN) has a legal definition. Children with special educational needs have learning difficulties or disabilities that make it harder for them to learn than most children of the same age.

Special educational needs fall under four broad areas:

  • Communication and interaction (including Autism)
  • Cognition and learning
  • Social, mental and emotional health
  • Sensory and/or physical

Children with special educational needs may need extra help with:

  • Thinking and understanding
  • Physical or sensory difficulties
  • Emotional or social difficulties
  • Difficulties with speech and language
  • How they relate to and behave with other people

Schools and other settings can help most children overcome the barriers their difficulties present quickly and easily, but a very few children will need extra help for some or all of their time in school. This is decided after a statutory assessment of the child's educational needs has been made.

Implementation of the SEN Code of Practice could differ from school to school.  All schools must have regard for the Code of Practice.  An overview of the schools provision is shown in their Local Offer for Special Educational Needs.

Read more about what to do if you're worried that your child is having difficulties