Types of SEND

Children and young people with special educational needs (SEN) may need extra help because of a range of needs.

The SEND code of practice outlines the definitions of special educational needs and disabilities.

Special educational needs (SEN)

Children and young people with SEN have learning difficulties or disabilities that make it harder for them to learn than most children and young people of the same age. These children and young people may need extra or different help from that given to others.

The law says that children and young people do not have learning difficulties just because their first language is not English, although, of course, some of these children and young people may have learning difficulties as well.


Many children and young people who have SEN may also have a disability. 

A disability is described in law (the Equality Act 2010) as ‘a physical or mental impairment which has a long-term (ie, a year or more) and substantial adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.’ This includes, for example, sensory impairments such as those that affect sight and hearing, and long-term health conditions such as asthma, diabetes or epilepsy.

The SEND Code of Practice set out four areas of special educational needs:

  • Communicating and interacting

For example, where children and young people have speech, language and communication difficulties which make it difficult for them to make sense of language or to understand how to communicate effectively and appropriately with others.

  • Cognition and learning

For example, where children and young people learn at a slower pace than others their age, have difficulty in understanding and/or organisation and memory skills, or have a specific difficulty affecting one particular part of their learning such as in literacy or numeracy.

  • Social, emotional and mental health difficulties

For example, where children and young people have difficulty in managing their relationships with other people, are withdrawn, or if they behave in ways that may hinder their and other children’s learning and/or that have an impact on their health and wellbeing.

  • Sensory and/or physical needs

For example, children and young people with visual and/or hearing impairments, or a physical need that can give rise to difficulties in accessing learning without appropriate support and equipment.

Some children and young people may have SEN that covers more than one of these areas.

Different types of special educational needs

Some examples of different types of special educational needs and how they can be supported by a school.

The details provided are for information purposes only.  If you think your child has special educational needs, contact your child's school, college or setting as soon as possible to discuss your concerns. 

Related links

SEND Code of practice: 0 - 25 years