What are Special Education Needs?
Special Education Needs (SEN) cover a wide range of issues. They may be physical needs such as deafness or physical disbility. They may be learning needs such as finding school work difficult to understand. Or they may be social needs such as finding it hard to communicate with other children and adults.
All schools are committed to meeting the educational needs of every child, whatever their physical or mental ability. There are of course Special Schools which specialise in providing an education for children with a particular special education need, such as autism or deafness. All mainstream schools should have a Special Needs teacher, often known as a SENCO (Special Education Needs Co-Ordinator) for short. His or her job is to help work out an individual programme of education for a child who has been recognised as having special education needs. For example, these could be children with behavioural problems, those who who have difficulty reading, or those with poor organisational skills.
What can I do if I think my child has a special educational need?
In the years from birth to starting school your doctor or health visitor should advise you if they are concerned about the health or development of your child. If you have concerns yourself, you should speak to your doctor about these and if necessary seek a referral to a specialist, who can advise you on what action is needed.
Once your child starts nursery or school, any concerns about how your child mixes with other children might be brought to your attention. For example, is s/he withdrawn in a group situation? Or is s/he lagging behind other children in classroom? Parent's Evenings are also a good place to discuss any worries you or your class teacher may have about your child's learning ability/ social skills/behaviour, etc. Though of course parents can speak to their child's class teacher, SENCO, or head teacher at other times - after making an appointment, if your concern might take more than a few minutes discussion.
Some of the things you might like to ask are:
Whether your son/daughter is struggling to cope with his/her work?
Is your son/daughter perhaps already getting special needs help?
Does the school think your child needs help because of physical or social problems?
What the school itself thinks about your child's educational needs?
What you and your partner can do to help your child at home?
If my child has special education needs, what happens next?
Once it has been decided that your child has special educational needs the school should put a step-by-step plan in place which follows the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice guidelines. You as a parent should be informed if the school starts to teach your child in a certain way because of his/her special education needs. This might be getting one-to-one help from a Teaching Assistant or working in a separate work area in the classroom. The class teacher should also record these special actions for your child in an IEP (Individual Education Plan). This will identify what extra help your child is receiving in the school and what you as a parent can do to help your child at home. This extra help may be something that lasts for a term or two, until your child has made enough progress that s/he has caught up with the rest of the class. Or it could be something that continues over many years if your child is struggling with his/her IEP.