April 2018
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  1. Recognizing Special Educational Needs


    Recognizing Special Educational Needs

    Recognizing special educational needs of a child is complex and it requires the knowledge of basic terms and difference between the terms. The focus should be turned on identifying the special educational needs of the child rather than mere identification of child that results in labeling of a child. Teachers should accumulate the knowledge of SEN and the kind of support to be provided to CWSN in classroom according to their identified educational needs. Recognizing SEN is a most important step of supporting a child in an inclusive setting. The present article will provide the legal definition of SEN distinguishing ‘disability’, ‘difficulty in learning’, ‘learning difficulty’, and ‘special educational needs’. It outlines the main areas of SEN in line with the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice (Department for Education and Skills, 2001a) namely: communication and interaction; cognition and learning; behaviour, emotional and social development; and sensory and/or physical needs. It also mentions about the provisions to be provided to the children.

    Special Educational Needs

    The legal definition of SEN in the Educational Act 1996 is: a child has special educational needs…if he has a learning difficulty that calls for special educational provisions to be made for him (Section 312). The Act then defines ‘learning difficulty’ stating that a child has a learning difficulty if:

    ‘(a) he has a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of children of his age;

    (b)he has a disability which either prevents or hinders him from making use of educational facilities of a kind generally provided for children of his age in schools within the area of the local education authority; or

    (c) he is under the age of five and is, or would be if special educational provision were made for him, likely to fall within paragraph (a) and (b) when of, or over that age.’

    (Section 312(2))

    Learning Difficulty, difficulty in learning and disability

    It will be seen from the above definition that it is possible to have a learning difficulty but not to have a SEN. This is because that the only learning difficulty that constitute the SEN is one which ‘calls for’ special educational provision to be made for it.

    A child only has a learning difficulty if he has ‘a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of children of his age’. This means that a child may have a difficulty in learning which is not significantly greater than that of children of the same age and that therefore would not be considered as a learning difficulty.

    A child may have a disability but it may not prevent or hinder him from making use of educational facilities of a kind generally provided for children of his age in schools within the area of the local education authority. Therefore, he would not have a learning difficulty.

    Consequently, a child may have a disability or a difficulty in learning but may not have a learning difficulty. Similarly, a child may have a learning difficulty but have a SEN. A child only has SEN when he or she:

    ·         Has a ‘difficulty in learning’ that constitutes a ‘learning difficulty’ that in turn requires special educational provision, or

    ·         Has a ‘disability’ that constitutes a ‘learning difficulty’ that in turn requires special educational provision.

    A medical condition does not necessarily imply ‘a difficulty in learning’ or a ‘disability’ and therefore may not constitute a learning difficulty requiring special educational provision. A medical condition does not therefore necessarily constitute a SEN (Farrell, 2003).


    In the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice (Department for Education and Skills, 2001a), the main areas of SEN are categorized as:

    ·         Communication and interaction (e.g. speech and language delay, impairments or disorders);

    ·         Cognition and learning ( e.g. moderate, severe and profound and multiple learning difficulties such as dyslexia and dyspraxia);

    ·         Behaviour, emotional and social development (e.g. features of emotional and behavioural difficulties, hyperactivity, etc);

    ·         Sensory and/or physical needs (e.g. hearing impairment, visual impairment, physical impairments)

    (Chapter 7, Section 53)

    Communication and interaction

    The children who have communication and interaction are those with:

    ·         Speech and language difficulties, impairments and disorders;

    ·         Specific learning difficulties (dyslexia and dyspraxia);

    ·         Hearing impairment

    ·         Autistic spectrum disorder

    ·         Sensory or physical impairment leading to communication and interaction difficulties

    These children need help in:

    ·         Articulation

    ·         Acquiring literacy skills

    ·         Using augmentative and alternative means of communication

    ·         Organizing and coordinating oral and written language


    Cognition and learning

    Children who are making slower progress than others and who ‘require’ specific programmes are those who demonstrate features of:

    ·         Moderate learning difficulties

    ·         Severe learning difficulties

    ·         Profound learning difficulties

    ·         Specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia

    Among those who may require specific programmes to aid progress in cognition and learning are children with:

    ·         Physical and sensory impairments; or

    ·         Autistic spectrum disorder

    The pupils with SEN in the area of cognition and learning may require help in such things as:

    ·         Acquiring literacy skills

    ·         Organizing and coordinating spoken and written English to aid cognition

    ·         Processing language, memory and reasoning skills


    Behaviour, emotional and social development

    Examples of the pupils who are ‘demonstrating features of EBD are those who:

    ·         are withdrawn or isolated

    ·         are hyperactive and lacking concentration

    ·         have immature social skills

    ·         present challenging behaviours arising from other complex special needs

    The pupils with EBD may require help and support in:

    ·         Development of social competence

    ·         Acquiring the skills of positive interaction with peers and adults

    ·         Provision of class and school systems which control or censure negative or difficult behaviours and encourage positive behaviours

    ·         Re-channeling and re-focusing to diminish repetitive and self-injurious behaviours


    Sensory and/or physical needs

    Sensory and multi-sensory difficulties include:

    ·         Profound and permanent deafness

    ·         Profound and permanent visual impairment

    ·         Lesser levels of loss which may be temporary

    Among the requirements for these children are:

    ·         Appropriate seating, acoustic conditioning and lighting

    ·         Adaptations to the physical environment of the school

    ·         Provision of tactile and kinaesthetic material

    ·         Access to low vision aids



    Department for Education and Skills (2001b) Special Educational Needs Code of Practice, London: DfES

    Farrell, M. (2003) Understanding special educational needs, London: Routledge Falmer

    Powerpoint download: recognizing-special-educational-needs

    Vishal Jain








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