Communication and interaction needs within SEND

Find out more information about communication and interaction needs for young people with SEND.

Some communication difficulties show early in life, and it is important to get advice and support early if you can. Some communication difficulties are harder to spot until the young person is older and can describe their difficulties and needs. It is never too late to seek help.

Children with communication and interaction needs may have difficulty in expressing themselves, in understanding language, and with interacting with others and the world around them.

Speech and language therapy and other support

If the child is in nursery or goes to a childminder, or goes to school, then they are the best people to talk to first.

Nurseries or childminders will be monitoring your child’s communication skills using the foundation stage curriculum, and will be able to advise you how to help their language skills develop.

Schools will plan how to support your child's language needs, agree some targets with you, and let you know how they plan to meet them. They will also consider how they will measure that progress.

They will set targets for your child to work towards, and describe how they will do that, and how you can monitor their progress.

Talking Point is a site run by the children's communication charity I CAN. It offers ideas on how to help a child, advice on typical speech and language development, and when to get help.

If the child needs more support than this, the lead professional who assesses children’s communication needs is the speech and language therapist. To find out how best to access one locally to you, speak to your GP, school, health visitor or nursery; but parents can also refer directly.  

You can follow the links below to access referral information in your local area.

For children under 3, your therapist or health visitor might recommend the child attends a language group at the children's centre, maybe Small Talk or Building Blocks for language. These groups are for children who need some help to catch up with their talking and are lots of fun. If the child’s nursery or childminder would like some help to support your child better, they might ask for one of our specialist teachers to support them. They will help the nursery to plan to meet your child’s needs and incorporate language targets into their session with them. Nurseries can also offer language groups within the session for children who need them- the specialist teachers can help them to do that if they need it.

Sensory processing needs

Many children with disabilities or developmental delay experience difficulties in perceiving and making sense of the world.  This might lead to challenging behaviour, or a difficulty in concentrating or listening.

The Autism Education Trust also offers information and resources to support planning in this area.

If you are concerned about a child’s sensory integration skills, then in the first instance talk to their school/nursery. They may, in turn, wish to seek advice from inclusive education specialist teachers or an occupational therapist. The normal way to access this service is for the teacher or SENCo at the school to make a referral via the single point of access process. Schools are also able to purchase training through North Yorkshire Education Services.


If you suspect a child is autistic, then, as this is a medical diagnosis, parents should talk to their GP, who can refer on for assessments. You should also talk to your school or early years setting, to get their view on their needs. Even without a diagnosis, school can work with you to assess needs, set targets and intervene. School can also ask for support from SEND Specialist Support if they need advice or training, and this can be done for children with or without a diagnosis.

Sometimes autism is difficult to spot, and can be masked as emotional or anxiety issues, especially in older students and often in girls. Seeking advice will help you and the young person understand themselves better and what they need to be happy and achieve their potential.

Further support for Autism

  • A useful source of information is the Autism Education Trust (AET) website. This partnership organisation is funded and supported by the Department for Education and hosted on behalf of the partnership by the National Autistic Society. The AET focuses on improving the education of children and young people with autism from the voluntary, public and private sectors. It also actively engages with young people, parents and carers and practitioners to inform its work. The AET is funded by its contracts and grants from the government and income from its training and materials.
  • The National Autistic Society is the leading UK charity for autistic people (including those with Asperger syndrome) and their families.