What special educational needs and disabilities means

Children with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) find it harder to learn than other children of the same age.

Special educational needs and disabilities explained

Special educational needs and disabilities is a term used to describe the learning difficulties that children and young people have that makes it harder for them to learn than most children and young people of the same age.

Special educational needs and disabilities is often shortened to SEND.

There is also a legal definition of SEND that you can read.

What having SEND means for your child

A child or young person who has SEND may:

  • find it harder to learn than other children of the same age
  • have difficulties that make it hard to go to school or college
  • need extra help or support to learn at school

Types of special educational needs

The SEN code of practice explains special educational needs are grouped in four categories:

  • communication and interaction, for example speech, language and communication difficulties that make it harder to understand language and communicate well with others
  • cognition and learning, for example learning more slowly than other children of the same age
  • social, emotional and mental health difficulties, for example finding it harder to manage relationships with others
  • sensory and/or physical needs, for example having a visual and/or hearing impairment, or physical needs that means they must have additional ongoing support and equipment

You can read the SEN code of practice on the GOV.UK website.

Who to ask for help

Check who you can talk to if you’re worried about your child’s development, or if you think they have a special educational need or disability.