SEND - a guide for professionals

Professional information and guidance regarding special educational needs and disabilities.

What are special educational needs?

Children and young people with special educational needs have learning difficulties or disabilities that make it harder for them to learn than most children and young people of the same age. These children and young people may need extra or different help from that given to others.

Many children and young people will have special educational needs of some kind at some time during their education.

Often these needs can be met through high quality teaching and short-term additional support, but some children and young people will need extra help for some or all of their time in education and training.

Four types of special educational need

Cognition and learning

If a child learns at a slower pace than others their age, has difficulty in understanding some lessons or subjects, has difficulties with organisation and memory skills, or has a specific difficulty affecting one particular part of their learning performance such as in literacy or numeracy.

Communication and interaction

If a child has speech, language and communication difficulties which make it difficult for them to make sense of language or to understand how to communicate effectively and appropriately with others.

Social, emotional and mental health difficulties

If a child has difficulty in managing their relationships with other people, are withdrawn, or if they behave in ways that may hinder their and other children’s learning, or that have an impact on their health and wellbeing.

Sensory and/or physical needs

If a child has visual and/or hearing impairments, or a physical need that means they must have additional ongoing support and equipment.


A child might also have a long-term disability, which has an effect on their ability to carry out typical day-to-day activities.

Schools and settings have a legal responsibility to make reasonable adjustments for learners and staff with disabilities.

This means that they should adapt the environment and their policy and practice so that the child is not disadvantaged.