Children and Young People: Special educational needs or disability (SEND)


Content last reviewed: April 2017

Children and young people with SEN have learning difficulties or disabilities making it harder for them to learn than most other children and young people of the same age.

There are four broad areas of SEN need and support: 

  • Communication and interaction – e.g. ‘where children and young people have 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’.
  • Cognition and learning – e.g. ‘where children and young people learn at a slower pace than others their age, have difficulty in understanding parts of the curriculum, have difficulties with organisation and memory skills, or have a specific difficulty affecting one particular part of their learning performance such as in literacy or numeracy’.
  • Social, emotional and mental health – e.g. ‘where children and young people have difficulty in managing their relationships with other people, are withdrawn, or if they behave in ways that may hinder their and other children’s learning, or that have an impact on their health and wellbeing’.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 – e.g. ‘children and young people with visual and/or hearing impairments, or a physical need that means they must have additional ongoing support and equipment’.

‘Some children and young people may have SEN that covers more than one of these areas.’

Children and young people who have SEN may also have a disability. The Equality Act 2010 describes a disability as ‘a physical or mental impairment which has a long-term (a year or more) and substantial adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.’

The above information has been taken from the Special Educational Needs and Disability - A guide for parents and carers.

Further details on definitions can be found in the SEND Code of Practice: 0-25 years.

Last updated Friday, 21st April 2017