The focus of the Local Offer is information, support and services available for children and young people who have SEND, but what is SEND?

What are Special Educational Needs (SEN)?

Some children may have SEN because of a medical condition or a disability. Other children may have SEN without a diagnosis or a disability.

A child or young person has a learning difficulty or disability if they:

  • Have a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others the same age.
  • Have a disability which prevents or hinders them from making use of facilities of a kind generally provided for others of the same age in mainstream educational settings. 

The Four Areas of SEND

Cognition and Learning

Children and young people learn at a slower pace than others their age, have difficulty in understanding parts of the curriculum, have difficulties with organisation and memory skills, or have a specific difficulty affecting one particular part of their learning performance such as reading or writing.

Communication and Interaction

Children and young people have speech, language and communication difficulties (SLCN) which make it difficult for them to understand what is said to them or communicate with others. Children and young people with ASD, including Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism, are likely to have particular difficulties with social interaction. They may also experience difficulties with language, communication and imagination, which can impact on how they relate to others

Sensory and/or Physical

Children and young people who have sensory or physical needs may have a visual impairment (VI), hearing impairment (HI), multi-sensory impairment (MSI), physical difficulties (PD).

Social, Emotional and Mental Health Difficulties

Children and young people have difficulties in social situations, or have difficulties regulating their emotional and mental health. This may include children who have a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), attention deficit disorder (ADD), oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), attachment disorder, anxiety and depression.

What are Learning Difficulties?

A child of compulsory school age, or a young person, has a learning difficulty or disability if they have a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others of the same age, or has a disability which prevents or hinders them from making use of educational facilities of a kind generally provided for others of the same age in mainstream schools or mainstream post-16 institutions. Types of learning difficulties can include:

Specific Learning Difficulty (SpLD)

A child with SPLD may require some support in school targeted to their specific area of difficulty such as spelling or numeracy. The most common SpLDs are:
  • Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) / Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Dyslexia (Difficulty with reading and/or spelling)
  • Dyspraxia (Difficulty with movement and co-ordination)
  • Dyscalculia (Difficulty with numbers)
  • Dysgraphia (Difficulty with writing)
Sometimes Specific Learning Difficulties are also a combination of difficulties.

Moderate Learning Difficulty (MLD)

A child with MLD may take longer to learn skills than the majority of their peers and are likely to require extra support in school. A child with MLD is likely to require a highly adapted and differentiated curriculum. Their social and emotional development is likely to be in line with their learning ability.  

Severe Learning Difficulty (SLD)

A child with SLD will have significant learning difficulties which impact their ability to learn and it is likely that they will require high levels of specialist support for their education and development. Their social and emotional development and communication skills are likely to be in line with their learning ability.

Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulty (PMLD)

A child with PMLD will have very complex needs, which might include physical difficulties, sensory impairment or a severe medical condition. A high level of specialist support will be needed at all times.  

What is a Disability?

The definition of disability under the Equality Act 2010 is quite wide and is not dependent on a particular diagnosis. 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. 

A person is disabled if they have:

  • A physical or mental impairment, and
  • The impairment has a substantial and long term adverse effect on their ability to carry out day-to-day activities.

A ‘physical or mental impairment’ can include sensory impairments, medical conditions, learning disabilities, mental health conditions, autism, speech and language impairments, and more. There is no requirement for a formal diagnosis, though this is likely to help  as evidence of  2010an impairment

‘Long-term’ means a year or more, and ‘substantial’ means more than minor or trivial. Normal day-to-day activities can be physical or tasks such as processing instructions.

This government guidance helpfully explains the definition of disability under the Equality Act

What Educational Support is Offered to Children who have SEN?

Children who have special educational needs may require special education provision (or SEN support) to help them achieve their targets. 

Find out more about SEN support.


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Last updated: 22 May 2024 15:25:15


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City of Doncaster Council’s Families Information Service is responsible for co-ordinating and publishing the Local Offer – Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).

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