A child has special educational needs (SEN) if he or she has learning difficulties or disabilities that make it harder for him or her to learn than most other children of about the same age.

Many children will have special educational needs of some kind during their education. Schools and other organisations can help most children overcome the barriers their difficulties present quickly and easily. A few children will need extra help for some or all of their time in school.

So special educational needs could mean that a child has:

    • learning difficulties – in acquiring basic skills in school


    • emotional and behavioural difficulties – making friends or relating to adults or behaving properly in school


    • specific learning difficulty – with reading, writing, number work or understanding information


    • sensory or physical needs - such as hearing or visual impairment, which might affect them in school


    • communication problems – in expressing themselves or understanding what others are saying


  • medical or health conditions – which may slow down a child’s progress and/or involves treatment that affects his or her education.

Children make progress at different rates and have different ways in which they learn best. Teachers take account of this in the way they organize their lessons and teach. Children making slower progress or having particular learning differences in one area may be given extra support to help them succeed.

You should not assume, just because your child is making slower progress than you expected, or the teachers are providing additional support, help or activities in class, that your child has a major learning difficulty. It is important to remember that the majority of children will, at some point in their learning, require some additional support and also that not all children learn at the same rate. What they may find challenging at one point, they maybe be able to grasp later on. Learning is not fixed, but dynamic and developmental.

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