Common SEND needs and specific conditions

Information and advice about common SEND and medical conditions and signposting to services

There are lots of reasons for a child or young person to have special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND). Here you will find information on common needs. 

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a group of behavioural symptoms that include inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness.

Symptoms of ADHD tend to be noticed at an early age and may become more noticeable when a child's circumstances change, such as when they start school. Most cases are diagnosed when children are 6 to 12 years old.

The symptoms of ADHD usually improve with age, but many adults who are diagnosed with the condition at a young age continue to experience problems.

People with ADHD may also have additional problems, such as sleep and anxiety disorders.

You can find out more about ADHD on the NHS website.

Getting help

Many children go through phases where they're restless or inattentive. This is often completely normal and doesn't necessarily mean they have ADHD.

However, you should consider raising your concerns with your child's teacher, their school's special educational needs co-ordinator (SENDCo) or GP if you think their behaviour may be different to most children their age.

It's also a good idea to speak to your GP if you're an adult and you think you may have ADHD, but you weren't diagnosed with the condition as a child.

Asthma is a common lung condition that causes occasional breathing difficulties.

It affects people of all ages and often starts in childhood, although it can also develop for the first time in adults.

There's currently no cure, but there are simple treatments that can help keep the symptoms under control so it doesn't have a big impact on your life.

The main symptoms of asthma are:

  1. wheezing (a whistling sound when breathing)
  2. breathlessness
  3. a tight chest, which may feel like a band is tightening around it
  4. coughing

The symptoms can sometimes get temporarily worse. This is known as an asthma attack.

Getting help

You should see your GP if you think you or your child may have asthma. Several conditions can cause similar symptoms, so it is important to get a proper diagnosis and correct treatment.

Your GP will usually be able to diagnose asthma by asking about symptoms and carrying out some simple tests. These can't always be done easily in young children, so your child may be given an asthma inhaler to see if it helps relieve their symptoms until they're old enough to have the tests.

Autism is a lifelong developmental condition that affects a person's social interaction, communication, interests and behaviour.

It is a spectrum disorder, which means that while all people with autism share certain difficulties, the condition affects each person differently, and symptoms can range from mild to severe.

Autism is sometimes called Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC).

What to do if you are worried about the way your child communicates and interacts with other people?

If your child is under age 5 you can discuss your concerns with your GP, nursery manager or children’s centre inclusion lead.

You may also want to contact the:

If you child is over five and attending school you can speak to the school's special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO) or speech and language therapist as well as your GP or the Speach and Language Service

How do children get a diagnosis of Autism?

Autism is diagnosed by observing a child or young person’s social communications and interactions to see whether their behaviour, interests, or activities have any restricted or repetitive patterns.

The assessment is carried out over time so that the child can be observed in different settings and social situations.

Once the assessment has been completed, a report will be written and shared with the child's parents or carer and, if appropriate, the child's school, nursery or other setting.

Parents and carers will be given more information about how the assessment will be conducted and when it will be finished at the start of the assessment.

What support is there if my child has been diagnosed with Autism?

The health professionals that made the formal diagnosis, along with your GP, should be able to refer you to specialist treatment. You'll also find helpful information via the Related services and External links at right.

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) describe a range of conditions affecting social interaction, communication, interests and behaviour. Children and young people with ASD will experience the world differently to people without the condition. However, the way they show this and the level of needs they will have can vary significantly from one child to another.

The two most common signs of ASD include:

  • Difficulties with social communication. People with ASD often find it difficult to play or socialise with other children / young people, or to make new friends.
  • Repetitive behaviours and activities. People with ASD may show repetitive movements, have fixed daily routines, and be hypersensitive to their environment.

Autism is thought to affect around 1% of the population. The signs of autism normally become apparent at around the age of three years, and needs can often be picked up in 2-2.5-year health visitor reviews.

Although there is no cure for autism, there are a range of therapies that can help to address the child or young person’s needs. With the right support, children and young people with ASD can go on to live high-quality and fulfilling lives.

For more information on ASD, you can take a look at the National Autistic Society’s website.

Cerebral palsy is the name for a group of lifelong conditions that affect movement and co-ordination, caused by a problem with the brain that occurs before, during or soon after birth.

Speak to your health visitor or GP if you have any concerns about your child's health or development.

Symptoms like those of cerebral palsy can have a number of different causes and aren't necessarily a sign of anything serious.

Your child may be referred to specialists in child development who can do some checks and tests to see if there is a problem.

Useful links and resources

Scope offer independent and impartial advice, information and support via an online forum, helpline and various online resources.

Cerebral Palsy UK - provides support by offering impartial information on a broad range of subjects that people affected by CP may find useful.

Contact UK - information and advice for parents,carers and families of children and young people with additional needs and disability, regardless of a diagnosis. 

CP Teens - registered charity providing connections and friendships for young people with a range of physical disabilities as part of a monitored and supportive community.

Diabetes is a lifelong condition that causes a person's blood sugar level to become too high.

There are two main types of diabetes:

  • type 1 diabetes – where the body's immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin
  • type 2 diabetes – where the body doesn't produce enough insulin, or the body's cells don't react to insulin

Type 2 diabetes is far more common than type 1. In the UK, around 90% of all adults with diabetes have type 2.

Useful resources

Down's syndrome, also known as Down syndrome or trisomy 21, is a genetic condition that typically causes some level of learning disability and certain physical characteristics.

Characteristics of Down's syndrome

Most babies born with Down's syndrome are diagnosed soon after birth and may have:

  • floppiness (hypotonia)
  • eyes that slant upwards and outwards
  • a small mouth with a tongue that may stick out
  • a flat back of the head
  • below-average weight and length at birth
  • their palm may have only one crease across it

Although children with Down's syndrome share some common physical characteristics, they don't all look the same. A child with Down's will look more like their family members than other children who have the syndrome.

People with Down's syndrome will also have different personalities and abilities. Everyone born with Down's syndrome will have some degree of learning disability, but this will be different for each person.

Epilepsy is a common condition that affects the brain and causes frequent seizures.

Seizures are bursts of electrical activity in the brain that temporarily affect how it works. They can cause a wide range of symptoms including; uncontrollable jerking and shaking (known as a fit), becoming stiff, strange sensations, an collapsing. Sometimes you might pass out and not remember what happened. You can find out more about the symptoms of Epilepsy on the NHS site

Epilepsy can start at any age, but usually starts either in childhood or in people over 60. It's often lifelong, but can sometimes get slowly better over time.

You should see your GP if you think you (or your child) have had a seizure. This may not necessarily mean you have Epilepsy, as a seizure can have several causes and sometimes they are just a one- off, but you should always see a doctor to find out why it happened.

A child or young person with a learning disability will have reduced intellectual abilities and need some more help completing everyday tasks than a person without such a disability. Children and young people with a learning disability may take longer to learn new skills and to understand complex information.

There are different types of learning disability depending on the level of need:

  • Children and young people with mild learning disabilities might only require help with their school work and managing difficult tasks like opening a bank account or finding a job.
  • Children and young people with moderate learning disabilities may require some help looking after themselves as well as managing more difficult tasks.
  • Children and young people with severe or profound learning disabilities may require a full-time carer and significant help with completing a range of everyday tasks.

Around 4% of school pupils have a learning disability. Having a learning disability normally means your child will receive special educational needs and/or disability (SEND) support in school.

It is important to remember that children and young people with learning disabilities are not defined by their diagnosis. With the right support, many children and young people are able to learn skills important to them and achieve fulfilling lives in the community.

For more information and support, have a look at Mencap’s website. Mencap is the biggest UK charity supporting people with a learning disability and their families.

Physical disabilities refer to a wide range of mental and physical impairments which have a long-lasting and substantial effect on a child or young person’s ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.

Children and young people can have physical disabilities for a number of reasons including birth defects, medical conditions or injury. Some children and young people with physical disabilities will have severe or complex needs requiring multi-agency support across health, social care and education services. Others will have a milder disability with significantly lower level of need.

Approximately 0.2% of children and young people living in the Bi-Borough have a physical disability of some kind.

For more information and support if you or your child have physical disabilities, you might like to visit Newlife, the charity for disabled children, or Scope UK, the charity for all disabled people.

Sensory impairment refers to loss of function in one of the senses; sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch or spatial awareness. The most common types of sensory impairment among children and young people are visual and hearing impairments.

Visual impairment 

Children and young people with visual impairment will experience some degree of sight loss. Approximately 0.3% of the children and young people in the Bi-Borough have a visual impairment.

If a child or young person has partial sightedness this means that their ability to see is significantly reduced compared to their peers and cannot be corrected with glasses. People with partial sightedness are usually able to distinguish the objects around them and can benefit from adaptations such as use of high contrast colours and large print.

Children and young people with severe sight impairment will have extreme difficulty distinguishing objects around them. High contrast and use of large print will not normally benefit a person with severe sight impairment. If a child or young person is blind, this means they will be unable to tell the difference between light and dark.

There can be many different causes of visual impairment in childhood including congenital disorders, medical conditions, and injury.

Both children and young people with partial sightedness and those who are severely sight impaired or blind can normally learn and develop to the same level as their peers. However, they will often need the support of specialist professionals in visual impairment to help ensure the best outcomes.

You may want to have a look at the website for the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), which is the largest charity supporting people with visual impairment.

Hearing impairment

Hearing impairment refers to any degree of hearing loss. There are different levels of impairment, ranging from the more common mild hearing loss, to the much rarer profound deafness where there may be no functional hearing. Approximately 1% of children and young people living in the Bi-Borough have a type of hearing impairment.

Causes of hearing impairment range from congenital disorders, medical conditions or injury. Sometimes hearing impairment can be due to a treatable cause such as glue ear or build-up of earwax. However, even if the actual cause is not able to be addressed, in the vast majority of cases there are still interventions that can boost hearing levels such as hearing aids and cochlear implants.

With the right support at the earliest opportunity, children and young people with hearing impairment can learn and develop at the same level as their peers.

You may like to read more information about hearing impairment on the National Deaf Children’s Charity’s website.

Social, Emotional and Mental Health (SEMH) needs refers to difficulties children and young people may experience in one or more of the following:

  • failing to manage themselves socially or emotionally
  • having low levels of mental and emotional wellbeing
  • being unable to regulate themselves and their behaviours
  • having a mental health condition

Children and young people can have SEMH regardless of whether they have a mental health diagnosis. They may or may not mean that the child or young person has special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND).

Needs can manifest in many ways depending on the individual and their circumstances. Signs that a child or young person may have SEMH include:

  • anxious behaviours
  • seeming distant and withdrawn
  • becoming frustrated, angry and violent
  • self-harm, drug abuse or crime
  • disruptive social behaviours

Around 10% of pupils aged 5-16 have a formal mental health diagnosis, and there are a further 15% who show problems which put them at risk of getting a mental health diagnosis in the future.

With the right help and support, SEMH needs are often not permanent and most children and young people with SEMH are able to go on to normal lives in the future.

Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD) refer to difficulties that may impact on a specific area of learning. They are different from learning disabilities where there are generally difficulties experienced across a wide range of areas. Common SpLDs include:

  • dyslexia (difficulties with reading)
  • dyscalculia (difficulties with understanding maths or numbers)
  • dyspraxia (difficulties with coordinating movement)
  • dysgraphia (difficulties with writing)
  • attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Nationally, around 2% of school pupils have an SpLD.

Having a SpLD does not indicate general level of intelligence. With the right understanding and support, children and young people with SpLD can go on to lead full and successful lives.

Many children and young people experience difficulties communicating with others around them. This can include one or more of the following:

  • problems understanding what people are saying
  • problems making the correct speech sounds
  • stammering
  • hoarseness or loss of voice
  • problems with using language
  • problems interacting with others.

Children and young people who have one of these are said to have speech, language and communication needs (SLCN).

SLCN can occur on its own, or it can be related to another condition or disability such as autism. It is one of the most common reasons for children having special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND). As many as 10% of school pupils may have a form of SLCN.

Some types of SLCN will be ‘persistent’, meaning they will not go away but can be improved with therapies. Other types are ’transient’ meaning that with extra support, the child or young person can be helped to reach the same level as their peers. In Kensington and Chelsea, many primary school pupils receiving support for SLCN will no longer require it by the time they reach secondary school.