Special Educational Needs (SEND): Addressing students’ needs
Personalised learning for equal opportunities and access to education
What is SEND education? SEND stands for ‘Special Educational Needs and Disabilities’: a teaching approach that educators developed to assist students with various learning difficulties.
Today, it evolved in understanding how the approach to education cannot be “one size fits all”. Educators must consider the needs of students with learning impairments to guarantee the same access to opportunities for all students.
Understanding the meaning of SEND in education
The meaning of SEND education is supporting all pupils who have a hard time making progress compared to others.
The need for SEND education may be motivated by different learning disabilities: the most common special education needs are hearing impairments, emotional and mental health, social difficulties, or speech and language difficulties.
The goal is to provide all pupils with the best possibilities to succeed. To achieve this, schools have a register to track all SEND learners and should follow the progress of each one of them1 to find the proper teaching method according to their necessities.
Recognizing the diverse needs of students
As we introduced in the previous paragraph, the goal of SEND education is to identify all different learning necessities to provide the best-tailored education experience to each student.
Thus, the most fitted solution is indivisualised learning2: the school curriculum should be diversified to help SEND students achieve the same results as their peers. However, this method can work if a correct diagnosis for learning impairments is issued.
Indeed, SEND can be identified at an early age, although a diagnosis often comes once pupils start attending school3. At that point, schools must monitor students’ assessment to detect a lack of progress, but persistent withdrawn or disruptive behaviours should also ring a bell for educators.
Most common special educational needs and disabilities
Nowadays, the most common special education needs4 are:
- Communication and interaction impairments such as speech difficulties or autism.
- Cognition and learning impairments that result in one or more specific learning difficulties, such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia, or dysgraphia.
- Social, mental, and emotional health special needs such as ADD, ADHD, or autism.
- Sensory and physical needs such as visual impairment, hearing impairment, multi-sensory impairment, or physical disability.
Understanding the current issues in SEND education
Although SEND education is essential for students with learning disabilities, most schools still face some issues in implementing it5. Most parents report a need for proper implementation of SEND practices.
Specifically, the most common issues in SEND education are:
- A lack of joint commissioning;
- No co-production or unfit co-production;
- Poor-quality education, health, and care plans.
Unfortunately, this issue often results in a shortfall of ambition in special needs students, who give up on their learning path due to a scarcity of proper support.
Challenges in addressing students’ special educational needs
On the other hand, teachers and educators are also in a difficult position dealing with special needs. Individualised learning requires significant amounts of time and workload availability.
However, most schools do not dispose of the necessary resources to keep up with the commitment, and students are the ones to pay the expenses.
In this case, technology can become a valid support, helping teachers develop personalised curricula and students access the aid they need anytime.
Celebrating Diversity: inclusive Practices for all Students
Diversity is not only normal but also a vehicle for innovation and cultural enrichment. Therefore, it is auspicious for all schools to implement inclusive practices, not only for SEND students.
In particular, inclusivity comprises the following practices:
- Promoting consistency and accessibility for all
- Fostering collaboration among students
- Working on developing personalisation
- Varying learning opportunities
- Embracing equality and diversity.
1 The National College. “What Does the SEND Code of Practice Mean for Schools?” Nationalcollege.com, 2014
2 Tracy Griffin Spies. “The Forgotten Language Skill: Finding a Prominent Place for Listening in Meaningful Programming for Multilingual Learners with Learning Disabilities.” Frontiers in Education, vol. 8, 19 July 2023
3 Taberner, Joanne E. “There Are Too Many Kids with Special Educational Needs.” Frontiers in Education, vol. 8, 12 Apr. 2023
4 Main, Paul. “Special Educational Needs.” Www.structural-Learning.com, 18 Aug. 2022
5 Mark Allen Group. “SEND Reforms Consultation: Five Key Issues Sector Wants Resolved.” CYP Now
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