All teachers in local authority schools and government funded nurseries are expected to meet the needs of children with special educational needs often with support from a teaching assistant. The special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO) is the teacher in a school or nursery who has responsibility for organising the support for children with special educational needs. They may not always work directly with your child, but will support other staff and link up with the local authority and parents to make sure children get the help they need. Schools may request a statutory assessment of a child’s educational needs or help you with a formal request. Reviews of individual education plans and statements of SEN will generally be organised by the SENCO who will invite parents to discuss their child’s progress with the school.
Local authority services
Local authority services for children, including education, are now combined into Children’s Services Authorities or Children’s Trusts. While professionals will be working more closely than before, they operate under different legislation and often the funding is still separate.
Early years key worker
Under the Early Support scheme, young children with complex needs and their families may be allocated a key worker or lead professional who could come from health, education or social care services. The key worker’s main roles are to provide information to you and pass it on to other professionals as necessary and to co-ordinate the help that comes from a range of services. They should act as a contact point helping you understand the system and helping you find their way through all the services including benefits, transport and education.
The key worker will take responsibility for ensuring a Family Service Plan is agreed with you and reviewed regularly. The plan is included in the Early Support Family Pack, an information pack, which is given to families of newly diagnosed disabled babies and young children. The Plan may list the services which will be provided and give details of who will do what.
Education services for children with special educational needs are provided under the Education Act 1996, (as amended). This details when your local authority should offer extra support for your child. Professionals working within education services include:
The educational psychologist (EP) generally a qualified teacher who has additional training as a psychologist. EPs assess children for learning difficulties and can suggest ways teachers can help a child with special educational needs. All local authorities have an educational psychology service but some EPs work privately.
The special educational needs officer (or Named Officer) – your contact with the local authority if your child is having a statutory assessment or already has a statement of SEN.
Parent partnership service (PPS) – every local authority has a parent partnership service which helps parents of children with special educational needs (SEN) in their dealings with schools and local authorities. Parent partnership officers will support parents whose children are having a statutory assessment leading to a statement of SEN. They may also offer parents help via an independent parental supporter, a volunteer who is trained by the PPS.
Social services for children with disabilities and other needs are provided under theChildren Acts 1989 and 2004.
You can write to your local Social Services department to ask for an assessment of your child’s needs. Social workers can offer support and advice on services such as play schemes, parents’ groups and short breaks.
Social workers and care managers are involved in the assessment of care needs of people with disabilities and their family. They are also involved in arranging help to meet needs. If you do not have a named social worker or care manager and need urgent assistance from social services you should ask to speak to the duty social worker at your local department.
If there are concerns about a child’s mental health, it is likely that the local Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, (CAMHS), will be involved. These services are based at the local primary care trust (the local part of the NHS, including doctors’ surgeries), and will be able to recommend counselling or other mental health services if they are needed.
Health service professionals can diagnose your child’s difficulties and/or offer help. They include:
Paediatricians who specialise in children’s health and development. They may diagnose your child with ASD and may offer support.
Psychiatrists who are often involved where there are mental health difficulties. They may diagnose your child with ASD and may offer support. They are able to prescribe medication.
Clinical psychologists help children with specific problems such as overcoming behaviour difficulties. The clinical psychologist may diagnose your child with autism and may offer support.
Health visitors are qualified nurses or midwifes with additional training in child health. They visit families at home when they have children aged between 0–5. They give advice on the care of young children, normal child development, feeding and behaviour etc. Health visitors can help you contact other health services. Some areas have specialist health visitors who have experience of children with disabilities.
Occupational therapists (OT) help children carry out everyday activities such as using a spoon and fork. They can give particular help to children with autism, for example by using methods which calm their sensory systems.
Physiotherapists focus on physical and motor development. They can assess your child for physiotherapy treatment, give advice on equipment and teach parents how to handle their child when bathing, dressing etc.
Speech and language therapists can assess speech, language and communication difficulties and carry out therapy. They often work closely with other professionals such a teachers. They can give particular help to children with autism for example, using different communication systems. Speech and language therapists are often involved in the diagnosis of ASD as part of a muti-disciplinary team, ( ie. professionals from different backgrounds – health, education or care etc – working together to support families and children). Help from a speech and language therapist on the NHS can be accessed through a referral by your GP or through the local authority when it includes it in your child's statement, (ie. a document which sets out a child’s needs, extra help and school place. The educational help on a statement must be provided by law).