What is SEND?


Running with Prosthetic Leg
Aspiring to achieve

So, you have heard the word SEND used when talking about a child - "Oh that child is a bit special. They have SEND." Maybe the school has indicated your child has SEND or would like your child to be tested. Maybe you’re a teacher, tutor, teaching assistant or trainee and would like to learn what SEND means. Well, the two second answer is SEND stands for Special Educational Needs and Disability. The long answer is this could still mean anything! People say when you have met one Autist you have met one Autist. No in fact, when you have met one SEND person you have met one SEND person. However, I would argue even this is wrong. It is not fair to label a person SEND. Really what we should be saying is when you have met one person you have met one person. That person may have SEND. True. They may also like blue cars. Most people don't go around saying "That's the boy who likes blue cars." Subsequently why should we label a student SEND when that is one of their qualities?

Feeling better? It's OK not to know what SEND is and I actually think it is a positive. Being labelled SEND in my opinion is a recipe for disaster. It's not the label that is wrong it is the connotations. It's like giving eggs a sell by date. Eventually they are going to go bad. In the Government's "SEND Review: Right support, Right place, Right time" it says "children and young people with SEN have consistently worse outcomes than their peers across every measure" (HM Government, 2022). Results are lower, job prospects are lower, attendance is lower, exclusion is higher. If this were what I was being told I had to look forward to, my confidence and mental health may also waver. Yes SEND is linked in some cases to social and mental health problems. All negative connotations.

You see I believe you can change the system as much as you like but you are not getting to the root of the problem. It is simple. If you tell people they are going to fail, they usually do. How many times have you teachers heard "Oh Bobby can't do that he has Autism." or "Oh Charlotte won't understand that so there is no point in trying."?

If you set the bar low the student may achieve that goal but if you keep it that height they'll never learn to jump higher. SEND is about teaching progress and the label should stand for this. Start with little jumps but keep raising the bar and believe that any student can succeed and learn. Saying can't shouldn't be in any teaching professionals vocabulary when trying to raise aspirations. Doubly so with students that have SEND needs. Many already have low confidence so what is the attitude you'll never read that book or he'll never learn to communicate going to achieve? When you celebrate SEND and look at the positives rather than for the negatives I believe SEND outlook will change.

Now this arguably does not really answer your question. I hear you muttering, "I wanted to know what SEND means and this lunatic is saying it can mean anything and results in hell for my baby". What I am saying is SEND is a label and it has negative mindsets attached. It needn't be. This being said categorising SEND can be helpful.

The SEND Code of Practice defines SEND into categories. An SEND person may have some or all of these areas of need. They include:

  • Communication and interaction which can include a speech, language and communication need and/or a social interaction need. Autistic spectrum can often fall in this category.

  • Cognition and learning which can include needing to learn at a different pace but also physical and sensory needs and/or support to learn. Specific learning difficulties such as Dyslexia, Dyscalculia and Dyspraxia (SpLD), moderate learning difficulties (MLD), severe learning difficulties (SLD) and profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD) often fall in this category.

  • Social, emotional and mental health difficulties (SEMH) which may involve mental health issues like depression, self-harming, substance misuse, eating disorders ADHD etc

  • Sensory and/or physical difficulties which can include hypersensitivity or hyposensitivity to senses. Autistic spectrum may fall in this category as may vision impaired (VI), hearing impaired (HI) and multi-sensory impairment (MSI).

As already stated a SEND person may fall into one or all of the categories of SEND. Remember SEND is about treating each person as an individual. The categories are area of needs and the aim is to address these to create a fairer teaching and learning environment for all and supporting each person with SEND.

In short SEND is complex and to truly understand a person with SEND you can categorise to help support their need but each person is different. What is SEND for one person may not be SEND for another. What works to support one SEND person may not work for another with the exact same diagnosis. What is SEND? It is a label that should be celebrated whilst removing the negative connotation attached. It is about teaching positive mindsets and teaching people to achieve.

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