The difference between SEN and disabilities

Children and young people who have special educational needs (SEN) do not necessarily have a disability, and some disabled children and young people do not have special educational needs. There is a lot of overlap between the two groups though.

A child or young person has special educational needs (SEN) if they need extra support because they find it harder to learn than the majority of other children or young people of the same age.

Examples of special educational needs include:

  • Speech, language and communication needs
  • Behavioural, emotional and social difficulties
  • Autistic spectrum conditions
  • Specific learning difficulties, such as Dyslexia and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Moderate learning difficulties
  • Profound and multiple learning difficulties
  • Multi-sensory impairment

A child or young person has a disability if they have a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial or long term effect on their ability to carry out normal day to day activities.  Research suggests that about 6-7% of children are disabled.

Children and young people with the most complex needs will require specialist services.  They will require support with their health, education or physical, intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural development due to disabilities including:

  • Multiple and complex health needs or chronic illness
  • Sensory impairment such as hearing loss, visual impairment or deafblindness
  • A significant and long term learning difficulty
  • A physical disability
  • Autistic spectrum disorder
  • A severe communication disorder, or
  • A significant pre-school developmental delay 

There is support available for children and young people who have disabilities which do not affect their ability to learn.

No.  Children do not have SEN just because the language used at home is different from the language used at school.

The English Language Support Service works with local schools to support pupils who are new to English and those who are more advanced bilingual learners.  They also work with refugees and asylum seekers.

Please note parents cannot access this service directly and it is not available in all schools.  Ask your child’s school for more information.

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