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Wednesday, 3 October 2023

Identifying special educational needs in under fives

Your child's early years are an important time for their development. If they have special educational needs (SEN) it is important they are discovered as early as possible. If you are worried that your child may be having difficulties before they go to school, help is at hand.

Worries about your child's development

Your child learns through being with other people and exploring the world around them.

However, some children have more difficulties than most children of their age with:

  • communication
  • understanding and learning
  • sensory and physical development
  • behaviour or relating to other people

Children with this type of learning difficulty or disability are said to have 'special educational needs'.

Finding out more

It is important to act if you think your child may have a special educational need that has not been identified. You should talk to the person in your child's nursery, playgroup or other early years setting who has a particular responsibility for special educational needs. This person is called the SEN coordinator, or SENCO.

If your child is not attending a nursery or other early years setting, you can talk to your local council. Their early years and childcare team can help you find appropriate early years and childcare provision. Their SEN team can give you advice about special educational needs. Alternatively you could contact a Sure Start Children's Centre near you for help. You could also talk to your doctor or health visitor.

Most local authorities have a network of services for under fives. Health authorities, voluntary organisations and social services work closely together to support children with special educational needs.

Getting help

Your child's nursery or reception class should be able to help your child overcome the barriers their difficulties present. However, it is possible that your child will need extra support for some or all of their time in education. If your child is not in a nursery or reception class the local council can advise on suitable local provision.

Some points to bear in mind include:

  • your child's needs will usually be met in a mainstream nursery, playgroup or school, sometimes with the help of outside specialists
  • you should be asked about the decisions that affect your child
  • your views should always be taken into account

Extra help is available for your child from specialists, teachers and SENCOs, and from voluntary organisations offering advice that is often linked to particular needs.

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