Caring for Children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities
In the early years
To help every child with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) make the best possible start in life, the SEND Code of Practice covers all children from birth to 25 years old and aims to ensure every child with SEND is supported.
Experts recognise the importance of early intervention and the 2 year progress check (soon to be the Integrated Review) has been put in place so children who are at risk of falling behind can be recognised quickly and supported as early as possible.
Extra funding, the Early Years Pupil Premium (EYPP,) is available for early years childcare providers who care for children with SEND through Local Authorities. EYPP is applied for by parents and providers must use it in the setting to help the child for whom the funding is targeted, to raise outcomes for the child.
Before your child starts school, parents will need to work in close partnership with your child’s early education provider (childminder, nursery or pre-school) and together you should put a plan in place to help your child prepare for school – with the ultimate aim of helping them to reach their best potential during their time at school.
At the same time, you should speak to your child’s doctor or health visitor about any concerns you might have and ask them to make a referral for further assessments. Before your child moves on to school, you should also discuss any issues with the school so that, if necessary, adjustments can be put in place until a formal assessment has been carried out. It is important for your child that the transition from early years care into school is well organised and carefully planned.
Concerns you might have
Before you speak to your child’s school, think about the sort of concerns you have and the questions you may want to ask, consider some of the following:
• Does your child have physical needs or impairments?
• Have you noticed challenging behaviour which may suggest your child is struggling more than before?
• Do you want your child assessed for dyslexia or dyscalculia?
• Will your child’s personal, social and emotional needs be fully met in a busy classroom?
• Does your child have difficulties at home that you are worried may affect him at school?
• Does your child have difficulty concentrating or perhaps hyperactive behaviour?
• Does your child struggle in comparison to the ability of his or her peers - is this an ongoing issue that could be looked at more seriously?
Ask your SENCO - what additional help is available from school, the Local Authority or other agencies if things become more challenging?
Starting school without a plan in place
In some instances, health visitors and doctors will adopt a ‘wait and see’ attitude to parents concerns that their child may have extra needs and your child might start school without any support in place.
Every school has access to a special educational needs and disabilities specialist, known as a SENCO or ENCO, who you should speak to if you are concerned your child is at risk of falling behind or if your child is not coping with the new school routine.
Teachers should also be approached for their views: they are trained to recognise that children have special educational needs and / or disabilities such as sensory or physical needs or children requiring help with learning, communication, toileting, making friends, behaviour and organising themselves each day, often face different challenges when it comes to accessing learning which mean that they may not be able to experience school in the same way as their peers.
Depending on your child’s level of need, the school may be able to support your child through their own provision or the Local Authority can be asked to get involved to bring in experts who will carry out assessments to determine whether your child requires an EHC plan. Please be aware that this is not normally a quick process, despite new legislation and LA guidance it can take months or even years to access support for children.
As a parent, you will be invited to attend the assessments (known as Statutory Assessments) and you should have an Independent Supporter assigned to you, who will take you through the often complicated process of getting appropriate help for your child.
If required, the Local Authority may ask for input from other professionals such as a GP, social services (only if appropriate), educational psychologists, therapist or other medical professionals as required. Your views will considered and a multi-disciplinary approach will be taken to meet your child’s needs (where required).
Find out more information about EHC plans, including answers to frequently asked questions.
If it is decided that your child needs extra help and an EHC plan is put in place, it may be that the school are then given the additional resources to support your child, or in some cases, a new setting will be identified where your child’s needs can be more fully met through focused support.
Starting school with a plan in place
As required by the Equality Act 2010, the school will support your child to ensure that his or her needs are met whilst in school.
You will receive support from the school SENCO and additional funding should be made available from the Local Authority to ensure your child’s educational needs are met, either at their current school or in another school. . Depending on the circumstances, transportation may also be available to and from school each day: you will need to speak to your Local Authority about how your child’s funding (if it is in place) can be used to access these types of services.
Find out more information about the process.
Can I choose my child’s school?
Your Local Authority must agree to send your child to the school you choose for them as long as:
• Your chosen school is suitable for your child’s age, ability, skills and needs
• Your child meets the academic selection criteria the school has in place – note that many state schools do not have such criteria
• The decision to put your child into the school is considered to be an efficient use of local authority’s resources
• Your child’s presence will not have a negative impact on the education of other children already attending the school
If there is a suitable state school able to meet your child’s needs, the Local Authority is not obliged to send your child to a private school.
Parents of children with special educational needs and / or disabilities report that getting help is not always as straightforward as it should be: many become an expert in their child’s condition and the law in order to help their own child and then make their knowledge and time available to others.
The most important thing to remember in this whole process is the child – the child must be at the centre of everything that happens around them and their voice must be integral to the process of applying for and getting and EHC plan. You are their advocate and need to stay strong for them: do not hesitate to lean on others if you need help.
You can find an easy-read guide to the SEND laws here and every Local Authority will have a SEND Local Offer on their website – read it carefully and make sure you are treated in the way set out in the Offer.
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