The difficulties encountered by children with SEN

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'Schools have a responsibility to provide a broad and balanced curriculum for all pupils. The National Curriculum is the starting point for planning a school curriculum that meets the specific needs of individuals and groups of pupils.  This statutory inclusion statement on providing effective learning opportunities for all pupils outlines how teachers can modify, as necessary, the National Curriculum programs of study to provide all pupils with relevant and appropriately challenging work at each key stage. It sets out three principles that are essential to developing a more inclusive curriculum:

A Setting suitable learning challenges.

B Responding to pupils' diverse learning needs.

C Overcoming potential barriers to learning and assessment for individuals and groups of pupils.'



'The term SEN (Special Educational Needs) has a legal definition, referring to children who have learning difficulties or disabilities that make it harder for them to learn or access education than most children of the same age.'(


The severity of a child's SEN has a wide scope and can vary dramatically. Children with profound learning difficulties will most frequently attend special schools. Some pupils with moderate needs will attend special schools with the provision for integration in ordinary schools, but most children with SEN will attend ordinary schools and will fully integrate with other pupils.


It is sometimes necessary for a child with SEN to have a 'statement', in these instances the LEA (Local Education Authority) will assess the child's needs and decide if the degree of learning difficulty and the nature of the provision necessary to meet the child's SEN is such that it requires their educational provision through a statement. This decision will be made if it considers that the provision for a child's SEN, cannot reasonably be provided within the resources normally available in the mainstream setting.

'According to Dfes (Department for Education and Skills) statistics, in January 2004 about 247'600 pupils across all schools in England has a statement of SEN. 60% of these attended mainstream state schools, while 3% attended independent schools. The rest attended special schools or were educated at home or elsewhere. In this same year there were nearly 1'200'000 children with SEN, but without statements inEngland. This represents just over 14% of all children across all schools.'



Children with SEN may need extra help because of an expansive range of needs, these could include:-

Thinking and understanding problems

Physical or sensory difficulties

Emotional or behavioural difficulties

Difficulties with speech or language

·         How they relate to and behave with other pupils


Whatever the SEN of the child is, it will have an adverse effect on the child's education if the right resources and teaching practices are not put into place to help the child on the way to a successful education.


People with SEN come from a whole range of backgrounds and although it can sometimes be associated with less affluent areas there are other statistics that impact whether a child stands the risk of having SEN. Statistics show that the ratio of boys to girls identified with SEN was approximately two to one across all age groups. For example within KS4 9% of boys were identified compared with 5% of girls. Generally, pupils from ethnic minorities, and also pupils who use English as their second language are more likely than their piers to be identified as having SEN. Pupils who were born in the summer months of the year are also more likely to have SEN, nearly 30% of all August born pupils within KS1 have SEN, this figure is reduced as pupils get older. (Statistics taken from: )


It is often criticised that by putting children with SEN in mainstream classes that it can have an adverse effect on other pupils within the class. This may result in classes being unchallenging and being too simple to stretch the needs of the more gifted students. This can also have a reverse reaction and that students with SEN are further disabled due to the lack of relevant teaching and resources to support their learning.


Most schools will undoubtedly have mixed ability classes even if classes are streamed, meaning that pupils will have varying levels of ability. By using a wide range of resources and materials that are suitable for all pupils in the class the teacher can educate the students in the best possible way, this is known as differentiation.


Recent studies have been carried out to try to establish the effects of integration of pupil's with SEN in mainstream classes. One of these studies was completed by the General Teaching Council in 2002 and outlined the following findings. Highly inclusive schools appeared to manage inclusion in a way that would reduce the negative impact inclusion may have on attainment levels. In inclusive schools where there is evidence that staff welcomed inclusion, and had a broad commitment to all children. The ethos in the schools reflected this and had a positive effect on pupils without SEN. This helps pupils with SEN to integrate into the school as any other child would.

 The report also states that whilst studies were being carried out in schools there was no evidence to suggest that inclusion had an adverse effect on other pupils within the class. There were also no unusual techniques used apart from increased access to TA's.


In 1994 the government published the SEN Code of Practice; this was initially launched to place emphasis on identification and assessment of pupils with SEN. This Code of Practice placed emphasis on pupils with SEN as having the following difficulties:

Learning Difficulties

Specific Learning Difficulties (Dyslexia)

Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties

Physical Disabilities

Sensory Impairments

Speech and Language Difficulties

Medical Conditions

The Code of Practice was then changed in 2002 and reduced the 8 categories into 4 new categories. These are:


Communication and Interaction

Cognition and Learning

Behavioural, Emotional and Social Development

Sensory and/or Physical


The 2002 version of this document was revised to include not only people with physical and sensory difficulties but also those with behavioural, social and learning difficulties. The revised Code of Practice provides and framework for developing strong partnerships between parents, schools, LEA's and health and social services. The Code of Practice promotes a consistent approach of meeting the chills educational need and places the rights of children at the heart of the process, allowing them to be heard and to take part in the decision making process wherever possible. The detailed guidance of this Code is informed by the following general principles which should be kept clearly in mind by all parties working with children with SEN:


A child with special educational needs should have their needs met

The special educational needs of the children will normally be met in mainstream schools or settings

The views of the child should be sought and taken into account

Parents have a vital role to play in supporting their child's education

Children with special education needs should be offered full access to a broad, balanced and relevant education, including an appropriate curriculum for the foundation stage and the National Curriculum



The Code of Practice is a compulsory piece of government legislation and must be adhered to by all mainstream and special schools. The Code also states that all schools should admit pupils with already identified special educational needs, as well as identifying and providing for pupils not previously identified as having SEN.


As part of the SEN Code of Practice, it sets out recommendations that all schools should have a designated SENCO (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator). The role of the SENCO is mainly to support the school and staff to ensure that the provision is made for children with SEN to have access to the best education and resources available to them. They should also liaise with parents and other professionals in respect of the children's SEN; they should also ensure that the appropriate individual educational plans are in place.


 I attended a secondary School in the London Borough of Dagenham for my second observation on being a teacher.   The Secondary School was very large consisting of around 400 pupils in three separate buildings. 168 of the pupils are on the SEN register.  The school has a very large interest in equal opportunities.


The School's policy for Special Educational Needs (SEN) and Equal Opportunities is that all children have the right to receive appropriate broad, balanced and relevant curriculum to meet their needs.    A high proportion of children will encounter special needs during some stage of their education.   It is important to identify and act upon all the children's competencies.   The teachers are in charge of the education for all the children in their class.   Regardless to the child's ability it is important to have high expectations in getting the best out them. The ability to learn is not affected by the child's intelligence.   A child receiving special needs support is seen as a relationship between school, home and other involved agencies.   To help the child's progression the school will call upon an involvement of other agencies, as by the School Handbook.


SEN can be identified as; when a child has a learning difficulty, which calls for special educational provision to be made for the child, as mentioned by the Code of Practice, (1978).


The aims of children with disabilities and significant difficulties are exactly the same as all other types of children, as stated by the ILEA, (1985).   Statementing was introduced to fulfil children's aims.   The school, in which I taught continues to implement the Code of Practice for Special Educational Needs.   There are five stages of statementing ranging from 1 - 5. At stage 1, the child will be identified as having a special need, therefore the class teacher will be in charge of making sure that the child is monitored.    Putting the child at the front of the classroom to keep a close eye on.   At stage 2 of the process, an Individual Educational Plan is written, this would normally consist of an element for which the parents make a contribution.   The child will be assisted by a Local Education Authority, (LEA) teacher, within the classroom individually and in-groups.     If no progress, then stage 3 will be introduced which, requires expert advise to entail the next plan of action.   During the stage 3 phase, they will encounter regular meetings with an assistant, in the classroom and out, which will monitor their progress.    All of these stages are school based.   Stage 4 will endoughtably be the next action, which is not always school based, as they will acquire additional help.   At stage 5 the child has a statement of SEN, this is normally approach either with more additional help or being transferred to another environment to suit their needs, as proclaim by the Schools Governors of Report.


 It is nearly impossible to stimulate the correct level of provision for Special Support Assistant's as every child is an individual, which require different levels of assistance.   This is the problem that makes SEN a difficult area to perfect, as remarked by Lewis. A (1991).


The SEN children will be treated differently, depending on the level of statementing and the type of SEN.  Also within the school a boy was partially sighted at stage 1 and the teacher used large bold letters, on the board and when demonstrating big clear diagrams were used. A child had Attention Differentiation Hyper-activity Difficulty (ADHD), which made him very disruptive consuming a lot of the teacher's attention.   To enable the class an experience of equal opportunity an TA would help him, to allow the teacher to devote the majority of her attention to the rest of the class.

When a child starts school they undertake a 'baseline' assessment, which will differentiate whether the child, suffers any type of SEN.   The child will then be tested again at the end of the year.  The most common SEN's are visual impairment, hearing impairment, physical disabilities, severe learning disabilities and emotional and behavioural difficulties, as identified by the ILEA (1985).  The class teacher is in contact with the children constantly during their time at school and it is the responsibility to inform the SEN Co-ordinator (SENCO), to distinguish whether a child needs to impose SEN.  Homework and classroom assessments give feedback to the teacher on how to differentiate work amongst the pupils.


The Warnock Report (1978) cited in ILEA (1995), states the aim of education to all children is, that every child will enlarge their knowledge imagination and experience in understanding, their awareness to moral values and enjoyment.   Entering the world after the completion of their education, as a formal, active participant in society and achieving as much independence as possible.

In the early years of the school the classes are divided into different abilities which allows the intelligent children to progress and the less able to improve giving them both the same equal opportunity. This is reviewed at the end of each term so as advancement can be attained. They are monitored in the class with homework and class test to ensure that they are in the correct group.   

During my time at the school I practised many examples of equal opportunity, wherein I allowed everyone to answer a question with their hand up and makes sure that everyone gets a turn.   I also incorporated a random name generator which I found on the internet. This meant everyone was had an equal opportunity. It also added some humour and levity into the classroom. When the class were involved in group brainstorming e.t.c, everyone had their chance to be involved. In a lesson that I was involved in, there was a girl who had a physical disability, which I was made aware of.    I knew that SEN children had a low self-a-steam and if I allowed the class to pick the teams, then I knew that she would be chosen last, due to her physical disability with her hand.   To give her and other children their equal opportunity, I chose the four teams numbering each child 1 to 4.   Also prior to the start of the lesson children who suffered from asthma and where thus not particulary keen to take part in case of over exerting themselves were able to consume a pump before the start, to give them the same opportunity to enjoy and participate in the lesson.

My main study concerns Pupil X. is a twelve year old boy who has a diagnosis of 'Moderate Autistic Spectrum Disorder'.  X followed a normal development pattern until he was about 2 years old but after this period he gradually lost the early language skills that he had acquired.  X was referred for speech and language therapy and received several sessions of therapy. 


X was originally placed at a 'Pre-School' where he progressed through the Special Education Needs assessment procedure.  Finally, he was placed at a Primary school with access to a specialist base for pupils with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). 


I observed X yr 7. In a PE session he copied the movements as necessary and appeared to enjoy himself.  In the classroom I noticed that X communicated very little verbally, and co-operated within his highly structured routine. I observed that his definition of 'work' was to copy out passages from reading books.


In interviews with his parents it was reported that in the home X occupies himself for hours with repetitive activities, for example 'cutting and sticking'.  He watches television and uses the home computer but is rarely spontaneously communicative, this was stressful for his mother and siblings and they were struggling to cope with X's difficulties.  X's mother had observed some imaginary play and she stated that his listening and attention skills were improving.


X is 12 years of age and reads and spells at a level far beyond his age but his understanding is some 5 years below these levels


  He follows a structured timetable, and receives additional speech and language support and one-to-one support from a Learning Support Assistant (LSA).


. When X was upset he became aggressive and could lash out at staff and other pupils.

In order to reduce the auditory and visual distractions of the classroom change was seen as an essential component in our programme as over stimulation has been found to distract some pupils with ASD, (Siegel, 2003). The fundamentals of this approach are that by making the environment more predictable the pupil will be less confused and problems will be reduced (Mesibov, 1997; Seach, 1998).


X has a number of strong points in many areas of the curriculum.  However, he struggled at first with the number of class changes moving to secondary school entailed.  This manifested itself primarily in X not being aware of where to sit in each classroom thus causing stress and confusion.  After discussion it was agreed that X should be able to sit in the same place or position in each of his classes whether this was in the main school or during his lessons in the provision; normally in front of the teacher's desk.  As a consequence we have now provided X with seating plans which illustrate (pictorially) where he should sit in each of his classes, resulting in structure that has helped his unease.  This approach supports the evidence offered by Short in his 1984 study. Surprisingly though this unease does not arise during lunchtime in the school canteen and X insists on eating his lunch in the canteen with other pupils.  

Attention was given to the planning of the rooms within the provision.  While it is useful to display details of work and posters in the walls of the department it was decided that these should be kept to a minimum and if possible under eye level to reduce distractions and over stimulation.


The use of visual schedules have long been in use throughout education.  These usually take the form of written timetables which focus the pupil's attention on their daily classes. 

When providing a schedule for X we considered and modified his standard timetable so that it was better suited for his use.  One consideration was the level of the schedule and it was decided that as X had little difficulty in understanding the written word that this was the best form of structure for him although we were equally conscious of the need to focus the schedule at the most meaningful level that addressed X's needs on his most difficult days.  Therefore even though he reads very well we have provided a written schedule with icons, (Mesibov 2004).  Another consideration was the length of the schedule.  As we knew that X could follow a sequence of activities using the visual clues given in the schedule we completed a schedule that contained more than one item, up to half a day, that lead X through the day thus;  'first….then…..then'.  X has now been issued with a pupil's diarythat has been customised for his needs.  The diary allows the schedule to be simplified with room numbers, teachers' names and a plan of the building.  Changes to the schedule are documented within the provision on a whiteboard that allows all pupils in the department to update their journals at the start of the day, break and lunch.  All pupils find these reminders reassurin.  The use of cover or supply teachers can also be tracked using this system and we have found that this reduces the element of change and thus stress for the pupils and is in support of the findings of Ozanoff and Cathcart (1998).


Overall the use of the diary results in a better understanding of the sequence of the school day for x and we have found, again in support of Ozanoff and Cathcart, that this allows him access to a wider range of lessons, skills and activities in the mainstream school.



X studies in both the mainstream school, supported by a LSA, and attends 1:1 lessons within the specialist provision.  The rationale behind these lessons is to reinforce the work from the mainstream, to secure skills and to extend concentration and attention span. Before these structured lessons, X was not spontaneously verbal, co-operated only within his highly structured routine and his fine motor (handwriting) skills were impaired. The use of dedicated LSA guidance, work schedules and the structure of the classroom in addition to these structured lessons have resulted in a more effective learning environment in which he contributes and integrates into school life.  These improvements support the evidence provided by Ozanoff and Cathcart (1998).


X keeps his work in plastic wallets and writes the teachers' instructions into his diary. The combination of schedule and system of work is being used in the provision, in support of Schopler (1991), in order to encourage X to become as independent as possible within school and in other situations.  X now has the added incentive of being provided with decision making and choice opportunities and we are endeavouring to adapt these systems for X to make them more flexible to circumstances external to school and to enable them to be adapted to adult life.


It was also important to include parental involvement at all stages of planning and implementation.  Parental feedback is encouraging and ongoing and it is reported that many of the stresses, previously reported by X's parent and siblings, have reduced and the programme is 'without doubt worth doing'; a parental comment that supports the work of Schopler et al (1982).


Intervention should be driven by an ongoing assessment of effectiveness. While at the same time, the programme ought to be individualised and based on appropriate activity-based interventions that address pupils' needs.  Moreover transitions are particularly difficult and should be addressed for each pupil throughout the day. Structure can also help to provide a practical response to the question of what is the best educational environment for each pupil with autism.  One possible answer, and one that was successful with Pupil X, seemed to consist of establishing multi-methodology classrooms which utilisised communicative, academic, social and environmental supports, thus finding ways of translating our world into comprehensible segments for pupil's with autism.


Independent skills are encouraged however it is also recognised that life is not all work and that communication, social and leisure skills can be learned by people with autism and can have an important impact on their well being. An important part of any curriculum therefore is developing communication skills, pursuing social and leisure interests, and encouraging people with autism to pursue more of these opportunities.  Working on strengths and interests, rather than dwelling solely on areas of weakness is a priority  The laim is to offer a curriculum within our department that providesd scope and balance while also reacting to the particular and appropriate learning needs of the pupils.


It is argued that educating pupils with SEN in an ordinary school doesn't give them the equal opportunity they need, as they are not as able.   Although Jones. N. (1989), suggests that integration is possible and that SEN can be met in the ordinary school.   Giving everyone their equal opportunity, to succeed in education.

Most pupils with SEN will integrate into ordinary schools. It is therefore important that schools understand every child's individual need and gives them access to the best possible education available to them. It is often stated that by having pupils with SEN in mainstream classes, it disrupts the rest of the class and the work level is reduced. There is no evidence of this. Classes that have access to good teaching assistants that not only spend time with their own allocated pupil, but also help the rest of the class have shown high levels of work due to the extra help for the teacher. As a result of the growing amount of pupils with SEN, the government brought in the SEN Code of Practice which basically states that pupils with SEN must have their needs met and the views of the child and the parent must be taken into account.


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