What does SEND mean?

Wolverhampton Information, Advice and Support Service

Special Educational Needs and Disability: SEND

The term special educational needs is described in law in the Children and Families Act 2014 as:

  1. 1. A child or young person has special educational needs if he or she has a learning difficulty or disability which calls for special educational provision to be made for him or her.
  1. 2. A child of compulsory school age or a young person has a learning difficulty or disability if he or she:
    (a) has a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others of the same age, or
    (b) has a disability which prevents or hinders him or her from making use of facilities of a kind generally provided for others of the same age in mainstream schools or mainstream post-16 institutions.
  1. 3. A child under compulsory school age has a learning difficulty or disability if he or she is likely to be within subsection (2) when of compulsory school age (or would likely be, if no special educational provision were made).
  1. 4. A child or young person does not have a learning difficulty or disability solely because the language (or form of language) in which he or she is or will be taught is different from a language (or form of language) which is or has been spoken at home.
  1. 5. Special educational provision means something that is ‘additional to’ and ‘different from’ that is generally available to pupils of the same age.

There are four broad areas of SEN:

Communication and interaction

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. Children and young people with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder, including Asperger’s Syndrome, are likely to have particular difficulties with social interaction.

Cognition and learning

Where children and young people may learn at a slower pace than others their age. They may have difficulty understanding parts of the curriculum or with organisation and memory skills. They may have a specific learning difficulty.

The term ‘learning difficulties’ covers a wide range of needs, including moderate learning difficulties (MLD), severe learning difficulties (SLD) and profound and multiple difficulties (PMLD). Specific learning difficulties (SpLD) such as dyslexia, dyspraxia and dyscalculia come under this term.

Social, emotional and mental health difficulties

Children and young people may experience a wide range of social and emotional difficulties which present themselves in many ways. They may have difficulty in managing their relationships with other people, be withdrawn, behave in ways that may hinder their and other children’s learning or that have an impact on their health and wellbeing. This broad area includes attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or attachment disorder. It also includes behaviours that may reflect underlying mental health difficulties such as anxiety, depression, self-harming and eating disorders.

Sensory and/or physical needs

Where children and young people have visual and/or hearing impairments, or a physical need that means they must have additional on-going support and equipment. This area of need also includes feeding difficulties or delayed independence skills and sensory processing difficulty which affects how the brain processes sensory information. e.g. poor posture, uncoordinated movements, overly sensitive or under responsive to touch, movement, sights or sounds.


Many children and young people who have SEN may also have a disability. A disability is described in law (Equality Act 2010) 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.’

This includes, for example, sensory impairments such as those that affect sight and hearing, and long-term health conditions such as asthma, diabetes or epilepsy.