Finding out your child is disabled can be a difficult time. Sometimes, a diagnosis can confirm what you already suspected or it can come as a shock.
You may wonder what it means for your child’s education. There is information and advice available to help you get the support you and your child need.
Talking to medical professionals
During the course of diagnosis, you may have met speech and language therapists, eye specialists, child psychologists and other professionals. Read up on various conditions in preparation for assessment results.
You may want to ask questions about how the condition will affect your child at school. For example, if your child has a visual impairment, you may wish to know what adjustments will help with reading the whiteboard and using textbooks. An eye specialist can give you a general idea of how your child may be best helped at school.
Next steps in the diagnosis process
Your next step should be to talk to your GP. Your doctor will refer you to a consultant who can assess your child’s needs. You may already have a paediatrician. Your health visitor can also guide you through the next steps.
The process and services provided will vary depending on where you live.
About SEN - special educational needs
SEN – or special educational needs – is the legal term used to refer to your child’s requirements in education.
According to Section 20 of the Children and Families Act 2014, a child has special educational needs (SEN), “if they have a learning difficulty or disability which calls for special educational provision to be made for him or her”.
Often, the school may identify your child’s special educational needs. It is required by law to contact you to discuss what support is available. If you believe that your child has special educational needs, discuss this with your child’s school or nursery.
The school should address your concerns and guide you through what will happen next.
At all levels of education, from nursery to further education, SEN support is available for your child. You will be involved throughout the process and kept up to date. Young people aged 16-25 will have a say in their own support.
SEN provision has 4 steps:
An assessment will evaluate your child’s needs and the support required. This will involve input from you, teachers and other professionals.
An agreed support plan for both primary and secondary school will outline the intended outcomes.
The school will put in place the planned support.
The SEN plan will have regular reviews on the support provided and how your child is progressing.
Education, health and care plans (EHCP)
It’s possible that your child needs more support than that provided by SEN. A doctor or health professional may ask your local authority to assess your child for an education, health and care plan (EHCP). If they do not, you can request an EHCP yourself.
An EHCP is a legal document, which combines provisions for a child’s education, health and social care. After receiving a request, the local authority may take up to 6 weeks to decide whether to carry out an assessment.
The local authority will ask for information about your child’s condition and needs. You can provide any letters or reports from health professionals. You can also write to them about the difficulties your child faces and what doctors and others have said.
During the assessment, the local authority will provide you with information and advice about the process.
In Wales, the process is a little different. SEN is known as Additional Learning Needs (ALN). All children covered by ALN will be assessed for an Individual Development Plan (IDP). This includes health and social care needs and provision for children up to the age of 25.
All local authorities must develop a ‘Local Offer’. This provides information on all education, health and social care services that are available in the local area for children with SEN. These services can vary widely.