What are special educational needs?
Some children have needs or disabilities that affect their ability to learn. A child or young person has special educational needs (SEN) if both of the following apply to the child:

  • They have a learning difficulty or disability which makes it much harder for them to learn than other pupils of the same age

  • They require special educational provision to be made for them

SEND --- The terms 'special educational needs' and 'disability' have legal definitions. These can be found in paragraphs xiii - xxiii of the Introduction to the 0-25 SEND Code of Practice.. If you want to find out more then the link for the SEND Code of Practice can be found at the bottom of the page.

Children and young people with special educational needs (SEN) may need extra help because of a range of needs. Paragraphs 6.27 - 6.35 of the 0-25 SEND Code of Practice set out four areas of SEN:

  • Cognition and learning - for example, where children and young people learn at a slower pace than others their age, have difficulty in understanding parts of the curriculum, have difficulties with organisation and memory skills, or have a specific difficulty affecting one particular part of their learning performance such as in literacy or numecy

  • Social, emotional and mental health difficulties - for example, where children and young people have difficulty in managing their relationships with other people, are withdrawn, or if they behave in ways that may hinder their and other children's learning, or that have an impact on their health and wellbeing, being disruptive, being isolated

  • Sensory and/or physical needs - for example, children and young people with visual and/or hearing impairments, or a physical need that means they must have additional ongoing support and equipment, a need for specialist equipment to be able to access school

  • Communicating and interacting - for example, where children and young people have speech, language and communication difficulties which make it difficult for them to make sense of language or to understand how to communicate effectively and appropriately with others eg - not being able to make friends, struggle to talk or say what they want to,find it hard to understand what other people are saying,
    find conversations and play confusing or challenging.


Some children and young people may have SEN that covers more than one of these areas.


Your child's progress
Children make progress at different rates and have different ways in which they learn best. When planning lessons, if they are at school, your child's teacher will take account of this by looking carefully at how they organise their lessons, classroom, books and materials. If they are home educated, then you may need to find different ways to help their learning. 

Choose suitable ways to help your child learn from a range of activities. If your child is making slower progress or having particular problems in one area, then try to think of another way to approach the same problem.

Just because your child is making slower progress than you expected, this doesn't necessarily mean that your child has special educational needs.

Getting help

Your child's early years are a very important time for their physical, emotional, intellectual and social development. When the health visitor or doctor makes a routine check, they might suggest that there could be a problem. If you have any worries of your own, you should ask for advice right away.

Young, gifted and special
Being gifted and talented can be hard enough, but what if you also have SEN?

High Learning Potential with Special Education Needs (SEN)
Teaching children who are both bright and have learning difficulty can be confusing. They can seem so able in some things and yet struggle to carry out other tasks, which you think are basic.
Often they are misperceived, by both parents and other adults that know them, as lazy, inattentive, stubborn, careless or unmotivated. Whilst everyone suspects that these descriptions are not wholly accurate, sometimes it is almost impossible not to fall back on them; something is not quite right, but it is hard to describe what is wrong.

Yet this is just what can happen with DME children. These children have a disability or learning difficulty but at the same time, they have high ability in one or more aspects of their learning.

What is dual or multiple exceptionality?
Dual exceptionality (sometimes referred to as twice exceptionality or 2e) is the term used to describe a child who is not only exceptionally able, but also has an additional learning difficulty or a disability.
Multiple exceptionality is the term used to describe a child with high cognitive ability and more than one special need or difficulty.
Put them together and the term used is dual and multiple exceptional or DME.
A child who is DME can face several barriers to their learning, both in the classroom(if at school) and at home.


Common difficulties seen alongside high learning potential include:
 High functioning autism (Asperger’s)
 dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia
 auditory and visual processing disorders
 sensory processing disorders, including dyspraxia
 non-verbal learning disorder
However, its principles could be applied to any special needs.

The sensitivity and awareness that DME children often have means that, from an early age, they are able to see that their peers out-perform them on simple tasks. They begin to have doubts about their own abilities, which results in their confidence in their own abilities deteriorating. Parents (and also teachers) who focus too much on what these children cannot do and their difficulties just go to making these negative feelings worse.
The resulting self-image damages the child’s academic, social, and emotional progress.
But, if you focus on the gifts, talents and interests of these DME children whilst accommodating their difficulties, this can result in improved resilience and the experience of success. If they are given opportunities to develop their strengths, these children can develop a positive image of who they are and a vision of what they might become.

Follow their interest and work with them on the things they are good at.


Special educational needs: basic principles at school

There are a number of basic principles that all those involved in your child's education will consider. When talking to your child's teachers, there are some basic points to bear in mind:

  • If your child has special needs, these should be met and they should receive a broad, well-balanced and relevant education.

  • Your views should always be taken into account and the wishes of your child should be listened to.

  • Your child's needs will usually be met in a mainstream school, sometimes with the help of outside specialists. 

  • You should be consulted on all the decisions that affect your child

Remember - you have a vital role to play in your child's education


“Until you have a kid with special needs you have no idea of the depth of your strength, tenacity and 


Writer unknown

At school

Help will usually be provided in their mainstream school, sometimes with the help of a specialist. Although, this is not always the case. If you have concerns about your child, then make an appointment to see the head and the person in charge of SEND at the school

What is a disability?
Many children and young people who have SEN may also have a disability. A disability is described in law (the Equality Act 2010) as 'a physical or mental impairment which has a long-term (a year or more) and substantial adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.' This includes, for example, sensory impairments such as those that affect sight and hearing, and long-term health conditions such as asthma, diabetes or epilepsy.

The Equality Act stipulates that early years providers, schools, colleges, other educational settings and local authorities:

  • ​Must not directly or indirectly discriminate against, harass or victimise disabled children and young people

  • Must make reasonable adjustments including the provision of auxiliary aid services (for example, tactile signage or induction loops), so that disabled children and young people are not disadvantaged compared with other children and young people.


This duty is what is known as 'anticipatory' - people also need to think in advance about what disabled children and young people might need