Some conditions with brief descriptions.

Reaching Families factsheets

Reaching Families is a charity who empower and support parent-carers of children with SEND. Their work focuses on supporting those in West Sussex.

They have helpful fact sheets on specific conditions. These are designed for families when they receive their child's diagnosis. The information provided will help you gain a better understanding of a condition and available local support services.

They also have other fact sheets on SEND-related topics such as money, education and leisure.

Reaching Families website (external link)


Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

ADHD is a type of neurodevelopmental condition. Behavioural symptoms include:

  • inattentiveness
  • restlessness and fidgeting
  • impulsiveness
  • being easily distracted.


Autism is a lifelong developmental disorder. It affects how a person communicates and interacts with other people and makes sense of the world around them. Autism is a spectrum disorder. All people with autism have difficulties but the impacts vary widely.

Cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy is a general term used to describe a group of lifelong conditions. It affect a person’s movement, posture and co-ordination. Damage to the brain before, during or shortly after birth causes it.

Cystic fibrosis (CF)

Cystic fibrosis is a genetic condition. It affects the lungs and digestive system, which become clogged with thick mucus. This can make it hard for people with the condition to breathe and to digest food.

Down syndrome

Down syndrome is a lifelong genetic condition. It is caused when a person inherits an extra chromosome (chromosome 21). People with Down syndrome have some level of learning disability, which may be mild, moderate or severe. As with any condition, this will be different for every person.

Dyspraxia or Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD)

This is a condition that affects movement and physical coordination. People find it harder to learn and perform practical skills & activities.

Muscular dystrophy (MD)

This refers to a group of genetic conditions that cause muscles to weaken. The person's level of disability increases over time.

Pathological demand avoidance (PDA)

People understand that Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA) is a profile on the Autism spectrum. The person has extreme avoidance of everyday demands. Often using social tools and strategies to do so. Research on PDA is still in its early stages. Without an agreed definition, it is not now seen as a separate diagnosis from Autism. Identification of a PDA profile on the Autism spectrum can help to pinpoint a child’s specific support needs.

Spina bifida

Spina bifida is a birth disorder. It affects the growth of the spine and spinal cord. It leaves a gap in the spinal column, the bone that protects the nerves. More serious forms of spina bifida occur in about 1 in 1,000 births in the UK.

The mildest form of spina bifida (spina bifida occulta) is very common and may affect as many as five to ten per cent of people. Symptoms are rare, most will not know they have it.


Sensory processing issues

Sensory processing issues can be experienced as a stand-alone condition. They are also common in children with a range of other disabilities. Indicators of sensory processing issues include:

  • sensitivity to loud noises
  • problems with motor skills
  • difficulty learning new tasks
  • being very fidgety
  • chewing things
  • spinning.

When sensory processing issues cause problems with daily life, this may lead to a child getting a diagnosis. The condition is known as 'sensory integration disorder' or 'sensory processing disorder'.

Rare or undiagnosed conditions

Rare syndromes

A condition is classified as ‘rare’ if it affects fewer than five people in every 10,000. In some cases a condition is so rare that there are only a few cases in the whole of the UK, Europe, or even the world.

Living without a diagnosis

For many parent carers, not having a firm diagnosis for their child can feel very upsetting. One of the biggest concerns is that without one they will be unable to access support. But this is not the case. Support entitlement is based on a child's needs rather than their diagnosis.