SEND in the Early Years

SEND in the Early Years

Caring for children with Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND) in the early years has always been an essential part of the crucial role that all childcare professionals play.

As parents and childcare professionals, we must have a solid understanding of identifying SEND in children to provide tailored care. This enables those children also to receive the very best start to their early years.

Here we are going to unpick SEND so we can understand what SEND means, who can help, diagnose SEND, and much more. So, let’s take a look.

What does SEND mean?

SEND is an acronym for Special Educational Needs and Disabilities. Children with identified SEND can access additional support within their education and/or home setting to help them learn and develop effectively. 

All children develop at different rates and stages, and this is identified through regular assessments completed at nursery by a child’s key person using the Development Matters document. Using the Development Matters document can allow professionals to determine if a child requires support as they grow and intervene early.

Who can help?

At Tommies Childcare, we support all individual children and provide early interventions to ensure all children receive the same care and opportunities.

As children grow, there are milestone checks at various ages, such as 1 Year and 2 Year Progress Checks. These checks are usually completed by your child’s Health Visiting Team and involve a Health Care Professional observing your child and discussing the skills and abilities your child can achieve. During these checks, the Health Care Professional will discuss any concerns already determined by parents/carers or any skills they have identified that the child has not yet learned. 

At this point, your child’s nursery will work collaboratively with the Health Care Professional(s) to support the child and ensure their needs are met. This is usually done via a referral process known as Single Point of Access (SPOA). SPOA involves a multi-agency team comprised of Speech & Language Therapists, a GP and/or a Paediatrician who will sit on a panel to discuss a child’s case, discuss the appropriate next steps, and ensure that the support provided is adequate.

If required, these professionals can work together to complete an Education Health Care Plan (EHCP). Yes, there are lots of acronyms! 

The EHCP is a document written by a Health Care Professional to identify your child’s needs, any diagnosis given by a paediatrician and the support measures required for your child to access an education.

The EHCP is usually completed by your child’s nursery and can take around 6 months. It involves an Educational Psychologist, paediatrician and any other professional involved with your child at the completion point. 

Diagnosing SEND

Receiving any diagnosis can be scary for parents/carers. Speaking openly with your GP/paediatrician will help the whole family and ensure the right level of support is provided.

When a SEND diagnosis is received, it is shared with those professionals working with your family, including your child’s nursery. From this point, your nursery will work with professionals to provide opportunities and experiences to develop your child’s learning. At all times, your nursery should work collaboratively with you.

What is the impact of early intervention?

Continuity of care is essential for children with SEND. Professionals working together will provide activities to support children in both the home environment and when at nursery. By giving children continuity, the impact will be phenomenal and will encourage children to become confident and grow.

Children who receive early intervention support for SEND are provided with positive opportunities and experiences that can significantly impact their education and development. 

Each Tommies Childcare setting identifies an individual known as a SENco (Special Educational Needs Coordinator). Yes, it’s another acronym! The SENco is specifically trained to support children with SEND, their colleagues and parents/carers to ensure that children receive the best possible experience and opportunities to develop. 

The SENco also works in partnership with the Area SENco for your local authority, which provides additional advice and support for the nursery setting and parents/carers. This can impact the child and their family, supporting them as they move through nursery into primary school. 

Parent Partnership

Parents/carers must work with professionals, including in the nursery setting to ensure that the interventions are discussed openly and honestly. When parents/carers raise a concern themselves, the intervention can happen at the earliest opportunity. Where the nursery raises a concern, this is where having a solid partnership is critical as it enables the best possible outcome for the child.

Praise, Praise, Praise

Every child thrives on praise. By creating an environment where children are praised for positive achievements, they grow to become more confident learners. Children will feel more willing to ‘have a go’ and try new experiences and activities.

Consistency in giving praise is equally important. Children who feel they may be different to others may already have low self-esteem or feel nervous about trying something new if they don’t feel they can accomplish the task. 

SEND and School

Finding the right school for your child is one of the most difficult decisions for parents and carers. However, this decision is even harder for parents of children with SEND. 

There are many educational provisions which support children with SEND. These range from mainstream schools with a teaching assistant who can help a small group of children with some additional measures.

Mainstream schools with enhanced provision could be a room or area where children can access a timetable specifically adapted to their needs. 

Specialist provision is when a school is fully equipped to support children who find it challenging to learn in a mainstream environment. These schools offer more support staff who can tailor the curriculum to a child’s needs. Where this type of school is identified as a need, it is required that the child has an Education Health Care Plan (EHCP).

Hopefully, after reading this, you’ll have a deeper understanding of SEND. However, should you have any questions, please speak to your child’s Key Person or Health Care Professional.

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