SEND areas of need

The areas of need for people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and how to support children and young people.

There are many ways that a child or young person can experience having special educational needs or disabilities (SEND).

We categorise SEND areas of need in 4 ways, as detailed below. Children and young people may experience need in one area, or multiple areas.

Cognition and learning needs

This area covers the ability to learn and process information.

Learning disabilities are significant impairments. These will not just impact upon cognition and learning but all areas of need. For more information, see the Mencap website.

Learning difficulties often occur in specific areas of learning. These are termed as Specific Learning Difficulty (SpLD).

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Communication and interaction needs

These needs cover difficulties with social communication such as reading social cues and managing relationships with others. Some sensory challenges may also occur.

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Sensory and physical needs

There are 8 senses that children and young people may experience difficulty with. Difficulties can vary between a complete loss of the sense (for example being registered deaf) to a hypersensitivity (for example auditory overload requiring headphones to reduce noise). The senses are:

  • Auditory - hearing
  • Olfactory - smell
  • Oral - taste
  • Tactile - touch
  • Visual - sight
  • Vestibular - balance
  • Proprioceptive - where the body is in space (for example problems with judging distance) 
  • Interoceptive - what is happening inside the body (for example interpreting pain or feeling sick and so on)

Physical needs cover a range of issues with gross and fine motor skills.

Examples of gross motor skills include:

  • crawling, walking or running
  • hopping
  • skipping
  • pushing or pulling
  • twisting.

Examples of fine motor skills include:

  • using scissors, pencils, utensils and so on
  • tying shoe laces
  • using zips
  • playing an instrument.

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Social, emotional and mental health needs

These needs cover the emotional wellbeing of the child or young person.

This may cover issues such as depression, eating disorders, trauma from difficult experiences, school avoidance due to bullying and so on.

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