If your child is at school or nursery and there are concerns about learning, development or behaviour, the teacher should follow a step-by-step process to provide extra support. The special educational needs coordinator (senco) at your child's school should help the teacher monitor progress.
The two stages of assessment are school action and school action plus. (In nursery these are called early years action, and early years action plus, they work in the same way).
At each of these stages the special educational needs coordinator will draw up an individual education plan, which should be reviewed every term. The senco will also work with other professionals to get the right support for your child. Parents should be involved in developing the individual education plan, and your child should also get the chance for input.
If your child needs additional support, his or her school may make an arrangement with the special educational needs coordinator to provide extra help at school.
School action plus
If your child's school cannot meet his or her needs, it may request extra support from others including physiotherapists, speech and language therapists and educational psychologists.
Statutory assessments (statements)
Parents, schools or other professional may then decide your child should receive a statutory assessment to get further help.
The local education authority should then assess your child to find out exactly what their needs are. They will meet your child to talk to them and observe them, at home and school. Parents, teachers and anyone else who has been involved with your child professionally should have the chance to comment. This should happen within a given timescale.
If you have trouble persuading the local authority that your child needs a statutory assessment, contact the Advisory Centre for Education.
After the assessment, the education authority will decide whether to issue a statement of special educational needs. This is a document that describes in detail what support your child should receive and what help must be provided for them.
This statement is a legal document and schools must provide your child with the help which is written on it. The statement must be reviewed every year, but if you feel it needs to be changed in between you can request this and say why.
If you disagree with the decision the local authority makes about your child’s needs, you have the right to appeal.
If you feel your child is not getting the help they need, or that the help they are getting needs to change, it is important to say this as soon as you can, by asking to meet with the school's special educational needs coordinator.
Children with SEN may find school harder to cope with than other children. They may be aware they are different and feel lonely because of this or develop low self-esteem. They may have friendship problems because of their behaviour, communication or understanding. They may also feel frustrated and angry about the difficulties they face with learning or social situations. These problems need addressing so the child can go on to enjoy learning and school and can do as well as they can.
If you are worried that your child who has SEN also has emotional or mental health problems, talk to the special educational needs coordinator about this. They may be able to give you some ideas about supporting your child, and can put extra support in place at school.
If you or the senco feel your family needs professional help to deal with these problems, the school may be able to make a referral to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). Your GP can also refer your child to CAHMS. You can see the GP without the child if they do not want to come. It can be helpful to write down a list of times when your child has had problems or incidents, and the effect this is having.
Your child may be offered talking therapy to help them with what is upsetting or distressing them. You and other family members may be offered support too. If your child is over 18 they will need to ask for the help themselves. If they are not willing to do this you can still ask your GP for support for yourself, to help you cope with the situation.
Youth counselling services may also be able to help, and young people can refer themselves to these. Most will see young people between the ages of 13-25.