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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 have concerns that their child:

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

Communication between home and school is important. It provides a good basis for understanding the individual needs of your child. You should always feel welcome to share your view on your child and their learning needs with a professional. It is important to pass on your concerns and discuss them with your child's teacher. They will be able to tell you about the school’s processes for monitoring and identifying SEND. The SEN Information Report on their website, will also highlight these processes.

What SEND Means

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

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

You can find out more by reading the SEND Code of Practice:

Different Types of SEND

It is important to remember that all children develop at different times. Your child may be assessed to have SEND if over time and compared to other children of the same age, your child appears to:

You should discuss any concerns with their education setting. They 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. They can be an indicator of the different needs that should be planned for in education settings. The purpose of identification is not to give your child a ‘label’. 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. The nursery, school or college will work with you and your child to create a plan of support.

The four broad areas of need are:

Communication and Interaction needs. 

This could include:

Cognition and Learning needs. 

This generally accounts for difficulties in curriculum-related areas such as:

The child or young person may also experience processing difficulties. They may also have difficulties with working memory or short term verbal memory.

Social, Emotional and Mental Health difficulties.

These difficulties can present in many ways. These may include becoming withdrawn or isolated, or displaying difficult behaviour. These behaviours may reflect a range of underlying issues. It is important to recognise that these difficulties may reflect other underlying SEND from other categories of need.

Sensory and / or Physical needs.

This includes:

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’. This is the area that creates the most barriers to developing and learning for them. They may also have other areas of need. 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:

This will happen over time so that support can be tailored to your child’s individual strengths and barriers. 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. This can include noting observations of your child’s behaviour and experiences. This makes it easier to notice patterns. It can also give you very valuable information on how to support your child. It also helps other professionals if they become involved down the line.

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

Diagnosing conditions may sometimes help in understanding how best to support your child. However, the approach that education settings or supporting professionals should take, depends on many other factors.

A diagnosis may be helpful but your child's behaviour and experience will be unique. This will require a tailored approach to their support. 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. However, they may still need 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.

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. These pages provide 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. For most people, the differences tend to be quite small. For example, you might be a bit better at maths but a bit poorer at 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 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 people their age in others.

It can help the child or young person if people look at their learning and thinking diversity as differences, rather than deficits. This can lead to a positive, strength-based approach. This helps to raise self-esteem, motivation and resilience. Neurodiversity is an important part of human variation. It is something to celebrate rather than something we 'cure'.

It is important, however, to understand that some children and young people’s neurodiversity can have a significant impact on them. In these cases, they must have higher levels of professional assessment and support.

To find out more, you can visit a website called 'Understood'. It provides 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. In particular, 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 clear 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. This is the case even if you can’t yet put your finger on why.

We have created a PDF that brings the contact information for a range of support services together in one place. It also covers common areas of concern you may have about your child’s health and wellbeing as they grow up:

Your child does not need a diagnosis or an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) 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 conversation.

Who Should I Speak To?

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

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. For example, 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. In this case, they will contact you for a discussion about your child’s needs.

You might be unsure how to describe your worries about your child or don’t fully understand what your child’s teachers are saying. In this case, it can be helpful to seek some advice and guidance:

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

Visit the Amaze SENDIASS web page.

Next Steps and Assessments

With your help, your child’s education setting 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 extra support. This may be because their school is able to meet their needs by providing high quality teaching (called Quality-first teaching). They may also provide other support which is available to all children when they need it.

Usually, the education setting will first try some in-class adjustments to support your child. For example, 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. This may be beyond what is possible in school. The school or another professional will refer to supporting teams in either:

Assessment - Community Paediatrics

Community Paediatrics is a specialist multidisciplinary team consisting of:

They contribute to the assessment and management of children and young people with possible neurodivergence. This includes:

You can find out more about community paediatrics on the NHS website:

There are different referral routes to community paediatrics depending on age and difficulties.

The referral route for primary school children with possible neurodivergence is from:

The referral route from pre-school age children is from:

You can find out more about referrals on the NHS website:

Assessment - Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS)

The CAMHS Neurodevelopmental Service provides diagnostic assessments of neurodevelopmental conditions in children.

They have assessment teams in East Sussex, West Sussex and Brighton & Hove. They undertake the assessment and diagnosis of:

This is known as the Neurodevelopmental Team (NDT). For young people aged 18 and over, visit the NHS website for more information:

The NDT includes:

You will see a combination of these professionals during treatment.

You can find out more about CAMHS Neurodevelopmental Service on the NHS website:

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.

In the first instance, this will be the responsibility of the class teacher or key person in a childcare setting. If the class teacher has concerns, 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. This will set out what areas of need your child has and what the educational setting will do to support them. Regular reviews of the plan will take place to ensure it is right for your child.

Depending on the type and severity of need of your child and if it is appropriate, specialist services will support them. East Sussex County Council or health services, such as the Child Development Centre, will provide these services. 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. This is via a co-ordinated network of professionals. They will work together with the child and their family. Depending on the types of needs this could include:

Sometimes a child's SEND is particularly complex and it continues to impact their ability to access learning. This is despite adjustments already being made. If this is the case, 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 SEND. This can include courses and workshops.

Amaze offers local courses and workshops for parents and carers:

IPSEA offers online training and webinars for parents and carers:

The Family Hubs website offers online parenting courses for children and teenagers:

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. They offer free, independent, and impartial advice for all matters relating to SEND. Contact Amaze SENDIASS by:

Visit the Amaze SENDIASS web page.

East Sussex Local Offer directory of services

You can visit our SEND-specific online directory, hosted on East Sussex 1Space. The directory lists many different services both throughout the county and online. Services cover many topics, including:

Visit the East Sussex Local Offer directory.

The Early Help Service 0–19 can help support your family from pregnancy until your child is 19.

The service consists of East Sussex County Council and NHS professionals. They can offer a wide range of support at your home, from a Family Hub or a Youth Hub.

They can offer help and support through:

The Early Help Service 0-19 helps to identify and support early years Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).

Please note, accessing keywork support depends on your child's level of need. Please contact your Health Visiting team to find out more. The main NHS provides more information:

NHS - Health A to Z

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. These pages provide information and advice on how to get extra support:

Visit the NHS Health A to Z web page.

Glossary of East Sussex SEND Terms

We explain some of the terms used on this website on our page, Glossary of East Sussex SEND Terms.

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