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Does My Child Have SEND?

An adult and a child talking and thinking together on a sofa.

Introduction to Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND)

All children are unique and develop in different ways.

It is normal for parents and carers to be concerned that their child is falling behind in a particular area, or that their child does things differently to other children. Sometimes this will resolve itself and sometimes this can impact a child and their education.

A parent tells us:

"You know your child better than anyone, your instincts about your child are always worth listening to. You'll usually know when they need extra help with something."

If you are worried about some aspect of your child's learning or development, talk to a professional who knows them e.g. class/nursery teacher, health visitor. - If you have medical concerns, talk to their GP.

Communication between home and school provides a good basis for understanding the individual needs of your child. Your view on your child and their learning needs is important and you should always feel welcome to share it with a professional. It is important to pass on your concerns and discuss them with the teacher who will be able to and tell you about the school’s processes for monitoring and identifying SEND. This information can also be found on the school’s website.

What SEND Means

SEND is a shortened way of saying Special Educational Needs and Disabilities.

NHS England states:

“A child or young person has special educational needs and disabilities if they have a learning difficulty and/or a disability that means they need special health and education support, we shorten this to SEND.”

A child or young person of compulsory school age is said to have SEN if they:

The Government’s SEND Code of Practice states:

“A child or young person has special educational needs (SEN) if they have a learning difficulty or disability which calls for special educational provision to be made for him or her."

Different Types of SEND

It is important to remember that all children develop at different times. But if over time your child appears to have greater difficulty in areas of their learning or social and emotional development than other children of the same age or, if your child appears to have some specific difficulties e.g. physically or with their hearing or vision, they may be assessed to have SEND. Any concerns you have should be discussed with their nursery, school or college who will, if required, arrange for further assessment to identify your child’s SEND.

There are four broad areas of need set out in the SEND Code of Practice. These are to give an overview of the range of needs that a child or young person may have and they can be an indicator of the different needs that should be planned for in nurseries, schools and colleges. The purpose of identification is not to give your child a ‘label’ as in practice a child may have needs that cut across all four areas and every child and young person is different. 

By considering the four broad areas of need, within a graduated approach, your child’s needs can be assessed and the nursery, school or college will work with you and your child to create a plan of support.

For more detail on the Broad Areas of Need, visit this websites' page on Supporting the Broad Areas of Need.

Your child will have a ‘primary area of need’ – that is the area that creates the most barriers to developing and learning for them, but they may also have other areas of need and the school can support them to make progress when they have identified what these may be. 

The process of identifying exactly what your child’s needs are may include observations, discussions with you and your child (in a way that is sensitive and appropriate for them), looking at test scores/work they have done and looking at how they respond to certain teaching approaches. This will happen over time so that support can be tailored to your child’s individual strengths and barriers and it can be clear what strategies will have the most positive impact on their learning.

It can be helpful for parents and carers to keep a diary of your observations of your child’s behaviour and experiences, so that patterns can be seen. This can give you very valuable information on how to support your child and can also help other professionals if they become involved.

Sometimes SEND is described in terms of a diagnosed condition such as Autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or Dyslexia. These are identified through assessments carried out by medical professionals.

Diagnosing specific conditions may sometimes help in understanding how best to support your child. However, the approach that childcare settings, schools, or supporting professionals should take is dependent on many other factors. A diagnosis may be helpful but your child's behaviour and experience will be unique and require a tailored approach to their support so it is important to work with the child, not just to focus on a diagnosis.

It is important to know that many children will not get a diagnosis but will still require the educational setting and parents and carers to work together to meet their educational needs. A child’s SEND may be separate from a child’s diagnosis.

Conditions, Assessments and Diagnosis

This site has a web page that outlines information on various SEND conditions. Visit the Conditions, Assessments and Diagnosis web page.

While the East Sussex Local Offer aims to provide as much information as possible, there may be some conditions that aren't covered in thorough detail. The NHS website has pages that list all conditions, with information and advice on how to get extra support:


Neurodiversity means that brain differences such as ADHD, or dyslexia can be viewed as natural variations of the human brain.

Everyone has some variation in how good they are at different types of tasks and thinking, but for most people the differences tend to be relatively small. For example, you might be slightly better at maths and slightly poorer at language comprehension or understanding social cues compared to others. Each person has a unique balance of these different thinking skills.

We know from brain-imaging studies that some children and young people have much more variation in their thinking skills. These variations appear in how the brain is “wired”.

Neurodiverse children and young people will usually have some significant differences between their strengths and weaknesses in particular areas. This is sometimes referred to as having a ‘spikey profile’; this means that rather than having a rounded set of skills, they can be very good at some skills and fall behind children and young people their age in others.  

For children and young people with learning and thinking diversity it can help them if you as parent/carers and their schools can think of their challenges as differences rather than deficits. This can lead to a positive, strength-based approach which helps raise self-esteem, motivation and resilience. Neurodiversity is an important part of human variation and is something to be celebrated rather than 'cured'. It is important, however, to understand that some children and young people’s neurodiversity can have a significant impact on them and that in these cases they must have higher levels of professional assessment and support.

To find out more, you can visit the website 'Understood', which gives more detail on neurodiversity:

We also recommend watching this YouTube video on neurodiversity called Amazing Things Happen:

When Should I Speak to Someone About My Child?

For some children it becomes clear in their early years that they have SEND; particularly if they struggle with skills like learning to read, counting, coordination or socialising. For other children and young people, their differences and/or difficulties may only become apparent later on, for instance:

Parents and carers do not have to wait until they have clear evidence of their child’s SEND to discuss something with the teacher or nursery staff. The right time to speak to your child’s nursery staff or teacher is when you first begin to worry or suspect there may be SEND – even if you can’t yet put your finger on why.

We have created a document that brings the contact information for a range of support services together in one place, for common areas of concern you may have about your child’s health and wellbeing as they grow up. You can find this document by clicking the link below:

Your child does not need a diagnosis or an Education, Health and Care Plan to access the services in this document - these services are open to you before, during and after an assessment of needs.  

The key message is that if you think things aren’t quite right for your child then it’s always better to trust your intuition and speak to someone about this.

Four adults and one child sat down having a chat.

Who Should I Speak To?

In most cases, the best option is for parents and carers to speak to your child’s teacher/pre-school teacher or nursery staff. They already know your child and a pattern of different behaviours can begin to emerge by comparing home life and how the child is getting on at school or nursery.

It can also be helpful to speak to medical staff such as a health visitor or a GP. There is never a wrong person to approach first, though it is helpful if you can keep everyone informed (e.g. if you are speaking to your GP about a developmental concern you should let the school know).

It may be that your child’s educational setting is noticing things about them that you haven’t yet seen or understood yourself. In this case, they will contact you for a discussion about your child’s needs.

If you are unsure how to describe your worries about your child, or, for example, don’t fully understand what your child’s teachers are saying, then it can be really helpful to seek some advice and guidance:

Amaze SENDIASS (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Information Advice and Support Service) are a local charity who offer free, independent, and impartial advice for all matters relating to SEND. Contact Amaze SENDIASS:

Next Steps and Assessments

With your help, your child’s pre-school, school or college should identify any special educational needs as early as possible. For more information on how they should do this, you can visit this websites' sections on:

Some children have learning difficulties but do not need additional support because their school will be able to meet their needs by providing high quality teaching (called Quality-first teaching) and other support which is available to all children when they need it.

Usually, the pre-school, school or college will first try some in-class adjustments to support your child  – like giving them more time to read something, or a quiet space they can go to. The school will try to find the right level of support for your child.

If the support the school is offering isn’t quite meeting your child’s needs, then some children will need further assessment, beyond what is possible in school. The school or another professional will refer to supporting teams in either East Sussex County Council or the East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust (ESHC) Child Development Clinic. 

The Child Development Clinic is where your child may meet and have assessments carried out by a pediatrician:

Who Is Responsible for Addressing SEND?

Your child’s pre-school, school or college (educational settings) have a duty to make ‘best endeavours’ to help your child with their SEND.

Initially, this will be the responsibility of the class teacher or key person in a childcare setting. If the class teacher is concerned then they will speak to the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCo) in the school. Every school has a SENCo.

The SENCo will lead on co-coordinating support for your child. If it is identified that your child needs extra support, they will work with the class teacher to create a written plan that will set out what areas of need your child has and what the educational setting will do to support them. This plan will be reviewed regularly to make sure it is right for your child.

Depending on the type and severity of need of your child and if it is appropriate, they will be supported by specialist services provided by either East Sussex County Council or health services such as the Child Development Centre. Some charities are also specialists in supporting children with particular needs.

When the barriers to your child’s learning are particularly complex, support may be provided by a coordinated network of professionals who will work together with the child and their family. Depending on the types of needs this could range from specialist teachers to physical therapists, nurses and support workers.

If a child's SEND is particularly complex and continuing to impact their ability to access learning despite adjustments already being made, then the professionals involved in their support will carry out an Education, Health and Care Needs Assessment. The assessment might result in an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP). 

A child smiling while reading a book, with a larger book beside her which has a rocket, a pirate ship and a castle tower coming out of it.

Learning About SEND

There are many opportunities for parents and carers to learn more about Special Educational Needs and Disabilities through courses and workshops.

Amaze offers local courses and workshops for parents and carers:

IPSEA offers online training and webinars for parents and carers:

Open for Parents offer local parenting courses and advice:

The NHS outline information and processes about many SEND conditions:

Additional Help and Support


Amaze SENDIASS (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Information Advice and Support Service) are a local charity who offer free, independent, and impartial advice for all matters relating to SEND. Contact Amaze SENDIASS:

East Sussex Local Offer directory of services

You can visit our SEND-specific online directory, hosted on East Sussex 1Space, that lists many different services both throughout the county and online. Services include advice, guidance and support groups, activities and events and mental health and wellbeing support among many other topics:

NHS - Health A to Z

While the East Sussex Local Offer aims to provide as much information as possible, there may be some conditions that aren't covered in thorough detail. The NHS website has pages that list all conditions, with information and advice on how to get extra support:

Glossary of East Sussex SEND Terms

Some of the terms used on this website are explained on our page, Glossary of East Sussex SEND Terms.

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