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Special educational needs - early years

All children deserve a fair start in life and we are committed to giving every child the opportunity to reach their full potential.

We work with families, schools and other agencies to provide a wide variety of support and aim to ensure that all children and young people have access to provision which is appropriate to their special educational needs or disability. You might like to view our pdf icon strategy for SEND 2011-14 (improvement and integration) [343kb] and the accompanying pdf icon implementation plan [22kb].

What does special educational needs mean?

The term encompasses a wide range of types of need. The established categories are: specific learning difficulty, moderate learning difficulty, severe learning difficulty, profound and multiple learning difficulty, complex learning difficulties and disabilities, behavioural, emotional and social difficulties, speech, language and communications needs, hearing impairment, visual impairment, multi-sensory impairment, physical disability and autism.

The Equality Act 2010 defines a person with a disability as someone who has a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his or her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. The definition of disability encompasses a broader range of impairments than might be commonly assumed, including children with autism, those with Tourette's syndrome and those with communication difficulties.

The support available

There are many organisations, groups and schemes that can help if your child is aged up to five. North Yorkshire's 37 Sure Start children's centres are the focal point for early years services. The centres offer early education and childcare, advice and support and child and family health services.

Disabled children's services provide specialist social work teams who work with children who have substantial and permanent disabilities. There are three disabled children's teams:

  • West, covering Harrogate and Craven Districts;
  • Central, covering Hambleton, Richmondshire and Selby Districts; and
  • East covering Scarborough and Ryedale Districts.

They work with disabled children and their families who are either self-referred or are referred by professionals working with that family who believe they would benefit from an assessment or services.

Help with development, learning and behaviour

The educational psychology and early years service supports children and young people in nurseries, schools and the community. Some of its work is with children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities.

The educational psychologists and early years advisory teachers

  • Help parents, carers, and professionals solve the problems that children's development or learning present them with;
  • Observe and assess children to help identify how or why these difficulties occur;
  • Plan programmes of help for others or offer direct help themselves;
  • Do research to develop new ways of helping adults to help children; and
  • Offer training to schools and other organisations.

As part of this service, trained home visitors provide an educational and support service to the families of children aged up to five with special needs or disabilities, usually in the family's own home using a programme known as "portage home visiting".


When looking for childcare, you will find a variety of types available. High-quality childcare has a significant impact on children's development. Some childcare providers are registered with the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted). Others are not required to register or are maintained by the local authority.

If you've experienced difficulty in finding childcare because of your child's particular needs, our childcare brokerage service may be able to help.

This support will come from either:

  • The Families Information Service

This is a free and impartial information service for all parents living in North Yorkshire who have children aged up to 19. Our highly trained team will work with you to help you find childcare.

  • Inclusion officers

Inclusion officers offer specific support to parents who have children with particular needs, for example a child with special educational needs or a disability.

If your child is under five and attending a nursery, and is not making the progress expected, the school's Early Years Action and Early Years Action Plus will see teachers and specialists make sure your child has the help he or she needs.

Special educational needs - early years - frequently asked questions

This page was last updated on 5 February 2014