What can I do if I think my child has special needs?

If you think that your child has special needs then you should act as soon as possible by contacting the “SENCO” (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator) in your child’s school or nursery.

If you child is not yet attending school or nursery you should contact your local council.

You can also get advice from your local Information Advice and Support (IAS) Services Network (see the link under “More information” at the end of this article).

Support available

  • SEN (Special Educational Needs) support in school with things like speech and language therapy;
  • An Education Health & Care Plan (EHCP) if your child needs more support than their school provides

SEN support

For children under 5 years of age, support includes:

  • a written progress check when your child is 2 years old
  • a child health visitor carrying out a health check for your child if they’re aged 2 to 3
  • a written assessment in the summer term of your child’s first year of primary school
  • making reasonable adjustments for disabled children, including providing suitable aids

Children aged 5-15 years

Talk to the teacher or the SEN co-ordinator (SENCO) if you think your child needs:

  • a special learning programme
  • extra help from teaching staff
  • to work in a smaller group
  • observation in class or at break     
  • assistance to enable them to take part in class activities
  • extra encouragement in their learning
  • help in communicating with their classmates
  • support with physical or personal care difficulties, for instance getting around school safely, using the toilet etc.

EHC Plan

An education, health and care (EHC) plan is for children and young people aged up to 25 who need more support than is available through special educational needs support.

EHC plans identify educational, health and social needs and set out the additional support to meet those needs.

You can ask your local authority to carry out an assessment if you think your child needs an EHC plan.

A request can also be made by anyone else who thinks an assessment may be necessary, including doctors, health visitors, teachers etc.

If your local authority decide to carry out an assessment you may be asked for:

  • any reports from your child’s school, nursery or childminder
  • doctors’ assessments of your child
  • a letter from yourself about your child’s needs

The local authority will tell you within 16 weeks whether an EHC plan is going to be made for your child.

EHC Plan timeline

  1. Your local authority will create and send you a copy of your child’s EHC Plan.
  2. You have 15 days to comment on the plan, including requesting that your child should be attending a special needs school or college
  3. Your local authority has 20 weeks from the date of the assessment to give you the final EHC Plan.

Disagreeing with the EHC Plan

You can challenge your local authority about:

  • their decision not to carry out an assessment
  • their decision not to create an EHC plan
  • the special educational support contained in the EHC plan
  • the school named in the EHC plan


If having disagreed with the EHC Plan you cannot resolve the issues with your local authority you can appeal to the Special Needs and Disability (SEND) Tribunal.

More information

You can find contact details and the location of your nearest service within the Information Advice and Support (IAS) Services Network at https://cyp.iassnetwork.org.uk/in-your-area/

For information on the SEND Tribunal, including downloadable forms and rules, please see https://www.gov.uk/courts-tribunals/first-tier-tribunal-special-educational-needs-and-disability

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