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A list of terms used when talking about services and processes relating to Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) along with explanations of their meaning and their common abbreviations (a shortened form of a word or phrase).


Academy: A state-funded school in England that is directly funded by the Department of Education. Academies are self-governing and independent of local authority control.

APDR: Assess Plan Do Review (APDR): A cycle in the SEND Code of Practice 0-25 used to meet the needs of children and young people. The plan involves parents and the child/young and is used to assess, plan and review progress. (Graduated Response) 

Ask Listen Do: A project by the NHS to make feedback, concerns and complaints easier for people with a learning disability, autism or both and their families/ carers.

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD): A special education need which affects concentration and the ability to focus.


Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): A group of behavioural symptoms that include inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness.

Advocacy: Independent support for people to express their views.

Advocate: For example, someone who helps another person to make decisions and have a voice.

Annual Review: A review of an Education Health Care Plan, in short EHCP and formally known as a Statement of SEN, which an education authority must undertake at least every 12 months.

Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD): is a developmental disability that affects how a person communicates and relates to other people. It also affects how they make sense of the world around them.

Aspergers: Another term for High Functioning Autism (new diagnoses do not use this term)

Assessment:  Finding out what a child can and cannot do by observing and testing them at their educational setting or home and by talking with people who know the child well.

Acquired Brain Injury (ABI):  Refers to any type of brain damage that happens after birth.


Behaviour Toolbox: A toolkit to help parents with autistic children. For more information visit:


British Sign Language (BSL):  A visual means of communicating using gestures, facial expression, and body language. Sign Language is used mainly by people who are Deaf or have hearing impairments.



Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS): This service assesses and treats children and young people with emotional, behavioural or mental health difficulties.

Carer:  A person who has taken on the role of caring

Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 (CSDPA): An Act of Parliament which

makes provision with respect to the welfare of chronically sick and disabled persons.

Children with Disabilities Team: A team of specialist Social Workers and Occupational Therapists who work with sick and disabled children and their families.


Children and Families Act 2014 (CFA): The law which introduced the current system of supporting children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities.

Classroom support:  Assistants who work in classrooms alongside teachers to support children to get the most out of their learning. 

Common Assessment Framework (CAF):  Now Known as EHA, the CAF was a framework for professionals to help look at what needs or support a child/young person may have. 

Congenital: Present at birth.

Complex:  More than one significant problem.

Compulsory school age: Broadly speaking, a child from 5 to 16 years old. A child is of compulsory school age from the beginning of the term following their 5th birthday until the last Friday of June in the year in which they become 16, provided that their 16th birthday falls before the start of the next school year


Code of Practice (COP):  A government document that schools, early years settings and local authorities follow when identifying children with SEN and meeting their needs

Curriculum Entry Levels:  Entry level qualifications are for young people from 14 upwards who are not yet working at GCSE level. To ensure that small steps of achievement are recognised entry level is divided into three group’s entry level 1, entry level 2 and entry level 3.

Curriculum P Levels/Scales:  P levels/scales provide a framework that is used to map a pupil’s progress with special educational needs who are working towards level 1 of the national curriculum. There are eight levels of P scales with P1 being the lowest and P 8 being the highest.

College of Further Education (C of FE): A college offering continuing education to young people over the compulsory school age of 16.

Co-Morbidity:  Refers to the presence of more than one disorder in the same person. For example, if a person is diagnosed with both social anxiety disorder (SAD) and major depressive disorder (MDD), they are said to have comorbid (meaning co-existing) anxiety and depressive disorders.



DfE: Department for Education.

Disability Living Allowance (DLA):  A benefit which can be claimed by parents for children under the age of 16, who have a disability, long term health condition, mental health condition or specific learning difficulty which affects their ability to study.  It can be used to pay for such things as special equipment, note-taker, or transport costs.

Disabled Students Allowance: Financial support for undergraduate or post-graduate students who have a disability, long-term health condition, mental health condition or specific learning difficulty which affects their ability to study, to cover some of the extra costs incurred because of their disability.

Disagreement Resolution: This is a statutory service commissioned by local authorities to provide a quick and non-adversarial way of resolving disagreements between parents or young people and bodies responsible for providing education, (whether the child/young person has an EHCP or not), in relation to Education, Health and Care assessments and plans.

Dyspraxia: See DCD below

Developmental Co-ordination Disorder (DCD): Also known as dyspraxia, is a neurological condition affecting an individual’s ability to plan and process motor tasks and often causes language difficulties.  A child with DCD may perform less well than expected in daily activities for their age, and appear to move clumsily.


Differentiation:  The way in which the early years setting/school’s curriculum and teaching methods are adapted to meet the needs of a child

Disability Discrimination Act (DDA): Lays out the duty on employers and service providers to make reasonable adjustments for people with disabilities.

Disagreement Resolution:  Arrangements which all local authorities must provide to help prevent or resolve disagreements between parents/carers whose children have SEN and the local authority or school. These must include an independent service with trained mediators, designed to bring the different parties together in an informal way to try to resolve the disagreement through discussion.

District Inclusion Support Meeting (DISM):  A meeting (often held in a District Specialist Centre) to plan and co-ordinate services for children requiring intensive support in the Early Years.

Delegated Budgets:  Regular funding given to schools on an annual basis by the local authority. It can be used to support pupils with special educational needs including those with a statement.

Dyslexia: Dyslexia is a learning disorder that involves difficulty reading due to problems identifying speech sounds and learning how they relate to letters and words (decoding). It can affect areas of the brain that process language. 


Dyscalculia:  Dyscalculia is a math learning disability that impairs an individual's ability to learn number-related concepts, perform accurate math calculations, reason and problem solve, and perform other basic math skills.


Dysgraphia: Dysgraphia is a learning disability that affects writing abilities. It can manifest itself as difficulties with spelling, poor handwriting and trouble putting thoughts on paper. Because writing requires a complex set of motor and information processing skills, saying a student has dysgraphia is not sufficient.



Early Years Setting: All pre-school provision for education such as nursery classes and schools, day nurseries, and playgroups.

Early Help Assessment (EHA):  Formerly known as CAF. The EHA is a tool designed to help practitioners work with a family to identify their children's needs and enable a group of practitioners to come together and form a TAF. 

Education, Health and Care Needs Assessment (EHCNA): An assessment of the needs of a child/young person to determine whether an ECHP is necessary.

Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP):  An Education, Health and Care Plan details the education, health and social care support to be provided to a child/young person who has SEN or a disability. It is drawn up by the local authority after an EHC assessment. 

Educational Psychologist (EP): Helps in assessing your child’s special educational needs and giving advice to schools. Especially helpful for gaining information needed for EHCP’s.

Emotional, Behavioural (and Social) Difficulties (EB(S)D): A condition in which behaviour or emotional responses of a child adversely affect their performance at school.

Early Years Foundation Stage (ETFS): An accumulative name for nursery, pre-school and foundation years of education and care for children from birth to 5 years.  

Early Intervention Teams (EIT):  EIT are a Local Authority service supporting schools to provide early SEN support and interventions for pupils.

Exam Access Arrangements:  Extra support for exams including SAT's, GCSE's, A Levels and more.


Every Child Matters (ECM):  A law which identified the five outcomes that are most important to children and young people: ∙ Be healthy ∙ Stay safe ∙ Enjoy and achieve ∙ Make a positive contribution ∙ Achieve economic well-being.

Equalities Act 2010:



Family Solutions Service (FSS):  FSS includes Children's Social Care Family Support Service with Early Help Services. They provide timely support and interventions through case work and targeted interventions to vulnerable children and families requiring statutory or targeted support to reduce safeguarding concerns.

Fine Motor Skills: Fine motor skills involve the use of the smaller muscle of the hands, commonly in activities like using pencils, scissors, construction with bricks, doing up buttons and opening lunch boxes. Fine motor skill efficiency significantly influences the quality of the task outcome as well as the speed of task performance.



Global Developmental Delay (GDD): The term used when a child has not met two or more milestones in all areas of development.

Graduated Approach:  A four-part cycle for assessing, planning, delivering and reviewing provision for pupils with SEN.


Gross Motor Skills: Gross motor skills involve the larger muscles in the arms, legs and torso. The function covers activities such as walking, running, throwing, lifting, kicking, etc. These functions also relate to body awareness, reaction speed, balance and strength. 



Healthwatch Oxfordshire: An independent consumer champion, gathering and representing the views of the public about health and social care services in Oxfordshire.  You can find out more at


Hearing Impairment (HI): Partial or total inability to hear.



Independent school: A school that is not maintained by a local authority and is registered under the Education Act 1996. Independent schools will need to be approved by the Secretary of State as being suitable for the admission of children with EHCP’s.

Independent Support (IS): An individual who is independent of the local authority and is trained to provide advice and support for families with children with SEND through the statutory assessment and EHCP process. It can also mean Independent Support.

Individual Education Plan (IEP):  An individual education plan is designed to help children who are experiencing difficulties in school to improve their skills and knowledge at their own pace.

Individual Support Plan (ISP): The ISP is a planning, teaching and reviewing tool. It is a working document for all teaching staff recording key short-term targets and strategies for an individual pupil that are different from or additional to those in place for the rest of the group or class.

Inclusion:  Inclusion is when children with special educational needs are educated in mainstream schools. Children educated in this way should be involved in school activities with other children.

Integrated Therapy Service: The Integrated Therapy Service provides specialist support through locally-based teams across Oxfordshire to children/young people with SEND.

Interoception: The recognition and interpretation of inner body signals. Being able to notice what your body is telling you.  E.g red skin – means you are hot, goose bumps means you are cold.

INMSS: Independent non-maintained Special School






Key Worker: A named member of staff chosen to care for a child/small group of children to help them feel safe and cared for whilst at school.



Learning Difficulty (LD):  A condition that impacts on an individual's ability to gain knowledge and skills at the same rate as his or her peers. 

Learning support assistant (LSA):  Assistant who works alongside the teacher in a classroom to help children learn.

Legislative: Having powers to make law.

Local Authority (LA): Your local council.

Local Funding Formula: Formula for how local authorities allocate their dedicated schools grants. It is based on the individual needs and characteristics of every school.

Local School’s Forum: The forum that acts as a consultative body on some issues and a decision making body on others. They are made up of representatives from schools and academies.

Local Offer: Local authorities in England are required to set out in their Local Offer information about provision they expect to be available across education, health and social care for children and young people in their area who have SEN or are disabled.  For more information see the Oxfordshire Local Offer follow this link.

Looked After Child (LAC): The term for a child who is looked after by a local authority.


Maintained School:  Schools in England that are maintained by a local authority.

Mainstream School: A school that is attended by children, whether or not they have SEND.


Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH):  MASH is a multi-agency team which identifies risks to vulnerable adults and children.


Mediation:  This is a statutory service commissioned by the local authority and is designed to help settle agreements between parents/young people and local authorities over Education, Health and Care needs, assessments and plans. 

Mild Learning Difficulties (MLD): A student with mild learning difficulties is usually able to hold a conversation, and communicate most of their needs and wishes. 

Moderate Learning Difficulties (MLD): A student with moderate learning difficulties is understood to display a significant delay in reaching developmental milestones and may have much greater difficulty than their peers in acquiring basic literacy and numeracy skills. They may also have associated speech and language delay, low levels of concentration, and under-developed social, emotional, and personal skills.

Multi-Sensory Impairment (MSI):  A child who has impairments with both sight and hearing. 

MDA: Multi-disiplinary assessment 



National curriculum: The National Curriculum sets out clear, full, and statutory entitlement to learning for all pupils, determining what subjects should be taught and the setting of attainment targets for learning.

Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET): This term is used to describe young people (18-24) who are not in education, employment, or training.

NHS Continuing Care: Support provided for children and young people under 18 who need a tailored package of care because of their disability, an accident or illness.

NHS Continuing Healthcare: A package of care that is arranged and funded solely by the NHS for individuals aged 18 and over who are not in hospital but have complex ongoing healthcare needs.

Non-maintained special school: An Independent Specialist School in England approved by the Secretary of State as special school.  These schools are not maintained by the state and charge fees on a non-profit-making basis. Most non-maintained special schools are run by major charities or charitable trusts.



Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): OCD is an anxiety disorder characterised by unwanted thoughts and repetitive activities.

Occupational Therapy (OT): Occupational therapy is a branch of health care that helps with physical, sensory, or cognitive problems. Occupational therapists help with barriers that affect a person's emotional, social, and physical needs.


Occupational Therapist (OT): A person who assesses the need or Occupational Therapy and develops and delivers a programme to help.


One to One Support: Support from an adult to a child on a one to one bases. Could include coaching, mentoring and teaching. 


Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD):  A disorder that is defined by a pattern of hostile, disobedient and defiant behaviours.


Ordinarily Available Provision (OAP): Provision or support that a local authority expects to be made available for Children and Young People with Special Educational Needs and/or disabilities (SEND).


OFSTED: Office for Standards in Education: a government department taking responsibility for the inspection of all schools in England.


Outcome:  Describes the difference that will be made to an individual as a result of special educational and other provision. Must be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound (SMART).



Parent Carer Forum: A group of parents and carers of children with SEN and Disabilities who work with local authorities, education, health and other providers to make sure the services they plan and deliver meet the needs of disabled children and families.

Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA): A condition characterised by an overwhelming need to avoid or resist demands.

Preparation for Adulthood (PFA): A section in the Code of Practice which lays out the need for local authorities and their partners to work together with young people to help them achieve successful outcomes in the long term.

Pastoral Support Plan (PSP):  A PSP is a school based and co-ordinated intervention to help individual pupils to improve their social, emotional and behavioural skills.

Paediatrician: A doctor who specialises in children’s health and may be responsible for the continuing carers with SEND both before school entry and in special and mainstream schools.

Pervasive Development Disorder (PDD): PDD refers to a group of disorders characterized by delays in the development of socialization and communication skills. 

Personal Budget: An amount of money identified by the local authority to deliver provision set out in an EHCP, where the parent or young person is involved in securing that provision. The funds can be held directly by the parent or young person or maybe held and managed on their behalf by the local authority.

Personal Budget: A Personal Budget is an agreed amount of money that is allocated to you personally by your local council (and other funding streams) following an assessment of your care and support needs. It is also possible to apply for a Personal Health Budget. More info here:

Personal Independence Payment (PIP):  PIP replaces Disability Living Allowance (DLA) when a child turns 16.


Profound and Multiple Learning Disability (PMLD): This diagnosis is used when a child has more than one disability, with the most significant being a learning disability. Many children diagnosed with PMLD will also have a sensory or physical disability, complex health needs, or mental health difficulties.

Portage: Planned, home-based educational support for pre-school children with special educational needs. Local authorities usually provide Portage Services. The Portage service is named after the town of Portage, Wisconsin, USA. There is an active and extensive network of Portage Services in the UK.

PPS: Parent Partnership Service: See SENDIASS (renamed).

Person Centred Planning (PCP):  Person centred planning puts the young person at the centre of planning and focuses on their aspirations. It is about families and professionals making plans with a young person and not for them.

Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS):  PECS is used as an aid to communication, for children and young people with autistic spectrum disorder and special educational needs. It helps them to communicate their needs and wants. PECS is used in schools, home and other venues.

Physical Disability (PD):  PD is a limitation on a person's physical functioning, mobility, dexterity or stamina. A person may be born with a physical disability or acquire it later in life through accident, injury, illness or side effects of medical treatment.  


Pupil Referral Unit (PRU): A specially organised school which provides education for pupils who would otherwise not receive suitable education because of illness, exclusion or any other reason.


Pupil Passport: A non-statutory document setting out school-based support and interventions for a pupil with SEN


Pupil Profile: A non-statutory document setting out school-based support and interventions for a pupil with SEN.


Proposed EHCP:  A draft copy of the statement of special educational needs, which parents/carers receive before the final statement is issued by the local authority.



Reading Age: A student's reading ability.


Reasonable Adjustments: These are the changes schools are expected to make to help meet a child’s needs. E.g one-to-one support from a teacher.


Respite Care: Identified package of support to give parent/carers a break from caring. Short breaks can provide overnight care for the child/young person. Families may also be receiving support from the Children with Disabilities Service.  Also known as Short Breaks.    



SEAP: Support, Empower, Advocate, Promote.  An independent health complaints advocacy.

SEN: SEN stands for Special Educational Needs: A child or young person has SEN if they have a learning difficulty or disability which calls for special educational provision to be made. 

SEND: SEND stands for Special Educational Needs and Disabilities and is not limited to learning difficulties/disabilities

SENARS: Special Educational Needs Assessment and Review Service.

SENCO: Special Educational Needs Coordinator: The teacher with responsibility for the planning and monitoring of the special educational provision within your child's school.

SEN Code of Practice: A government document which provides practical advice to those carrying out their statutory duties to identify, assess, and make provision for children's special educational needs.

SENDIASS: Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Information, Advice Service: Provides information and support to parents/carers whose children have special educational needs. Find out more here


SENO: Special Educational Needs Officer. Person employed by your local council to help parents of children/young people with SEND co-ordinate the Statutory Assessment process for provision of EHCP’s and schools.


Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD): A condition that affects how your brain processes sensory information. Sensory information includes things you see, hear, smell, taste, or touch. SPD can affect all of your senses, or just one and usually means you're overly sensitive to stimuli that other people are not.


SEN Provision: The additional or different help/support given to children with special educational needs, designed to help them access the National Curriculum.

Setting:  A place where your child learns. E.g pre-school, school or post-16 institution such as Further Education College.

Short Breaks: Short Breaks give children and young people with a disability time away from the family. 

Severe Learning Disabilities (SLD): A child/young person with little or no speech, who find it very difficult to learn new skills, will need support with daily activities such as dressing, washing, eating and keeping safe.


Severe Learning Difficulties (SLD):  A child/young person with little or no speech, who find it very difficult to learn new skills, will need support with daily activities such as dressing, washing, eating and keeping safe.


Special Needs Assessment and Planning Team (SNAPT):  SNAPT is a multi-professional panel who are part of the local authority and advises the LA of provision for a child with special educational needs (SEN).  

Special Educational Needs Tribunal:  This is an independent body that hears appeals by parents against local authority decisions on assessments and statements.  A tribunal decision is binding to both parties.


Special School: A school that is organised to make special educational provision for pupils with SEN and available for children with EHCP’s.


Speech and Language Therapy (SLT): SLT is a therapy to enable children, young people and adults with speech, language and communications difficulties to reach their maximum communication potential.

Speech and Language Therapist (SaLT):  SaLT’s assess, monitor and give therapy to children who have speech and communication difficulties. They also help with eating, drinking and swallowing problems.  

Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD):  SpLD can affect one or more particular aspects of learning. Examples include dyslexia, dyscalculia and dyspraxia.


Social, Emotional and Mental Health Difficulties (SEMH):  SEMH needs are a type of special educational need where a child communicates through behaviour in response to unmet social, emotional or mental health issues.


SEN Policy:  Sets out the vision, values and aims of the school’s SEND arrangements. Does not have to be a standalone document.


SEN Support:  An overall term that refers to pupils needing special educational provision who do not have EHC plans. Replaces the previous categories of School Action (SA) and School Action Plus (SA+).


SEND Resource Base:  Specialist provision within a mainstream school, also known as an SEN unit or specialist resource base. 


Sensory Room:  A space which uses special lighting, music, and objects to creating a calm environment or develop certain senses. Often used as a therapy for pupils with limited communication.


Speech and Language Communication Needs (SLCN): Children with SLCN may have difficulty with only one speech, language or communication skill, or with several.  Children may have difficulties with listening and understanding or with talking or both.


Statutory: Required, permitted, or enacted by statute.

Statute: A written law passed by a legislative body.

Statutory Assessment: A detailed assessment of a child's special educational needs, which informs the EHCP’s



Teacher assistant (TA):  Assistant who works alongside a teach in a classroom to help children learn.

Team Around the Child (TAC): For the purpose of bringing together different agencies into one meeting where there are concerns about a child or a family identified within a Common Assessment Framework (CAF) – but not enough for statutory intervention – to source support services and agree an Action Plan for implementation.

Team Around the Family (TAF): The Role of the TAF is to create a bespoke Support Plan to bring about planned changes which address the Critical Worries identified in the Early Help Assessment. This will lead to improved outcomes for children, young people and their families.

Tourette Syndrome:  A disorder that involves repetitive movements or unwanted sounds (tics) that can't be easily controlled. For instance, you might repeatedly blink your eyes, shrug your shoulders or blurt out unusual sounds or offensive words.

Transition Primary-Secondary School:  If your child has a statement, the move from primary to secondary school should be discussed at your child’s year 5 annual review. Transition is about planning for when your child moves to secondary school.

Transition Secondary School–School Leavers:  If your child has a statement, in year 9 at school they will start to have transitional annual reviews. Transition is about planning for when a young person leaves school, and what they might like to do. A Connexions PA will start to attend the meetings. A transition plan will be written at the year 9 annual reviews and will be reviewed every year till the young person leaves school.

Transition Plan: A transition plan is a document that records what has been said at the transitional annual review and if any action is to be taken and by whom.

Top-Up Funding:  Additional funding available from the LA for pupils with high needs, i.e. those whose educational provision costs more than £10,000 per year 


Tribunal:  Independent body that determines appeals by parents or young people against LA decisions on EHC needs assessments and EHC plans, as well as claims of disability discrimination.



Visual Impairment (VI): Visual Impairment or vision loss, is a decreased ability to see to a degree that causes problems not fixable by usual means, such as glasses.






Young person: A person over compulsory school age (the end of the academic year in which they turn 16). 

Youth Support Service (YSS):  A local authority team that supports young people who are not receiving the standard of care of protection appropriate to their age.



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