What happens if you think your child has SEND

Who to speak to and what happens if you think your child has special educational needs.

1 Overview

If your child needs more support with learning than others, they may have special educational needs and/or a disability (SEND). This can include things like:

  • not learning as quickly as most other children
  • a disability or health problem
  • struggling to communicate or understand what people are saying
  • a learning difficulty such as dyslexia
  • social communication difficulties
  • emotional or behavioural challenges
  • sensory processing difficulties.

As many as one in five children may need extra support at some stage with their learning. 

If your child is under 5, see the information on Local Offer about the Early Years Planning and Review Meetings. Referrals can only be made by a professional.

Watch our video on Local Offer which gives more information on when a child may need additional support. A glossary/jargon buster of terms is also available.

If you are a young person with a learning difficulty

If you are a young person with a learning difficultly, you can contact the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Information Advice and Support Service (SENDIAS) helpline and ask to speak to a young person advisor. Alternatively you could speak to a member of staff at the school or college you are attending and ask them to call us on your behalf and arrange for us to meet with you.

Whilst the following pages mainly provide information to support the questions parents/carers may ask these are also relevant if you are a learner with SEND.

2 Who to talk to about your child's progress

Children/young people in childcare/education

If you're worried your child/young person may have SEND and they are in childcare/education, you should talk to their keyworker or teacher.

All educational settings have a member of staff with responsibility for SEND sometimes called a Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO). They will work with you to ensure your child or young person receives special educational needs (SEN) support. 

There are a number of things the education setting can do to support children and young people with SEND, for example they can:

  • offer a differentiated curriculum (a specific learning programme for the child/young person)
  • adapt the resources or equipment to meet the needs of the child/young person
  • provide additional support – this can be provided by a member of staff including teachers, learning support assistants, senior leadership or pastoral staff (this support can be in small groups and doesn’t necessarily need to be on a 1:1 basis)
  • provide additional groups tailored to the child/young person’s needs, such as Lego Therapy, Counselling and Narrative Therapy
  • request support from outside agencies to observe the child/young person and suggest strategies which the educational setting could implement to support the SEN, such as the Learning and Behaviour Advisory Team (LBAT), the Social Communication Team (ASCT) and Speech and Language Therapy (SALT)
  • take observations of the child and keeping records of any notable incidents
  • encourage peers to support the child/young person
  • provide or support the child’s personal care needs, including toileting, dressing or eating
  • create a development plan, which is sometimes known as the graduated approach and is continually reviewed.

Further information is available in the document below.

If you do not feel comfortable talking to your child's school, or would like to talk to someone impartial about how to move forward, you can talk to the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Information Advice and Support Service (SENDIAS).

Children/young people not in childcare/education

If your child/young person is not in an educational setting we advise you talk to the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Information Advice and Support Service (SENDIAS) for general concerns about how to meet your child’s needs.

You can also talk to the SEN Assessment Team if you are considering making an Education Health and Care Needs Assessment (ENCNA). We advise you continue to read the following sections.

If your child is electively home educated you can also talk to the Elective Home Education Team.

3 Who to talk to about your child's wellbeing

If you are worried about your child's health and wellbeing there are lots of different services that are there to help.

You should start by talking to your:

  • Doctor
  • Health Visitor
  • Opticians
  • School nurse
  • Social worker (if applicable)
  • Children and family centres
  • Find it out centres.

They can refer you to other services for more help, if needed.

Further information on health and wellbeing is available on Local Offer.

4 If you need further support

Education Health and Care Needs Assessment (EHCNA) 

Most of the time the educational setting will be able to meet the needs of your child. In some circumstances additional support may be needed through an Education Health and Care Needs Assessment (ENCNA).  

The EHCNA allows the local authority to consider whether a child or young person requires an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP) to set out the provision (support) they require.  

The assessment can include reports from the following:  

  • Educational Psychologist 
  • Paediatrician
  • Occupational Therapist
  • Speech and Language Therapist
  • Physiotherapist
  • Educational setting
  • Child Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS)

Following an assessment a decision is made as to whether an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP) will be written. Funding may be provided to support the delivery of the provision described in the EHCP.

The following people can request an EHCNA for a child/young person:

  • a parent/carer
  • an Educational Setting (must have consent of parent/carer)
  • a young person.

Watch the video on Local Offer which gives an overview of an Education Health and Care Needs Plan.

5 Before making a request for an assessment

Before requesting an Education Health and Care Needs Assessment (EHCNA) you should consider the following.

1. Complete the assessment checklist

You can complete our checklist which provides further information and advice on when an assessment may be needed. This checklist is also used by the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) as a guide on when to request an EHCNA.

The checklist is an information tool and does not affect your right to apply. It contains additional information from the SEND Code of Practice.

Education Health and Care Needs Assessment checklist

2. Speak to the educational setting

We strongly recommend that you discuss the request with your child/young person’s educational setting before completing the request, as the setting will be contacted by the SEN Assessment Team to seek information regarding your child/young person.

The educational setting will be required to provide information to the SEN Assessment Team as outlined in the West Sussex guidance. Forewarning them of your request will help them to be fully prepared.

Support and guidance on talking to professionals is available on Local Offer.

3. Impartial advice

You may also wish to contact the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Information Advice and Support Service (SENDIAS) for impartial advice and support on your request.

6 Request an assessment

Request an Education Health and Care Needs Assessment (EHCNA) - Parent/young person

An assessment can take up to 20 weeks to process. Further information on the different stages and timescales is available in the document below.

What happens next

We will acknowledge receipt of your request. The Special Educational Needs Assessment Team will then send formal acknowledgement in writing and will also try to phone you.

Within 6 weeks of receiving your request we will advise you as to whether an EHCNA will take place.

Last updated:
1 March 2018

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