Children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities in the Early Years

Children and young people with Special Educational Needs (SEN) all have learning difficulties or disabilities that make it harder for them to learn than most children and young people of the same age. These children and young people may need extra or different help to others.

Check out what financial support is available for your setting, for example Disability Access Funding (DAF) and Bursary funding.

The 0 to 25 Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Code of Practice sets out four areas of SEN:

  • Communicating and interacting - children and young people have speech, language and communications difficulties which make it difficult for them to make sense of language or to understand how to communicate effectively and appropriately with others.
  • Cognition and learning – children and young people learn at a slower pace than others their age, have difficulty in understanding parts of the curriculum, have difficulties with organisation and memory skills, or have a specific difficulty affecting one particular part of their learning performance such as in literacy or numeracy.
  • Social, emotional and mental health difficulties – children and young people have difficulty in managing their relationships with other people, are withdrawn, or they behave in ways that may hinder their and other children’s learning or have an impact on their health and well being.
  • Sensory and/or physical needs – children and young people with visual and/or hearing impairments, or a physical need that means they must have additional ongoing support and equipment.
  • Some children and young people may have SEN that covers more than one of these areas. The code of practice sets out a more individualised response to support children with special educational needs and disabilities.

For more information:


Many children and young people who have SEN may also have a disability, which has a long-term and substantial adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities’. This includes, for example, sensory impairments such as those that affect sight and hearing and long-term health conditions such as asthma, diabetes or epilepsy.

The Equalities Act (2010) requires that early years providers, schools, colleges, other educational settings and local authorities:

  • Must not directly or indirectly discriminate against, harass or victimise disabled children and young people
  • Must make reasonable adjustments, including the provision of extra did services (for example, tactile signage or induction loops), so that disabled children and young people, are not disadvantaged. People need to think in advance about what disabled children and young people might need.

Early years practitioners should complete the ‘My Story’ document with the child’s parent as part of the early years process for children seeking involvement from the SEN team. The ‘My Story’ information will be used for any future referral for an Education, Health and Care Plan. It has been agreed that the ‘My Story’ document will be completed to ensure all views and needs of the child have been captured. If the request does not progress to an EHCP, the ‘My Story’ can be used to explore the services or resources available to support the child as part of the Salford Local Offer. The ‘My Story’ can also be used to aid transition planning, alongside the Starting Life Well ‘All about me’ document.

You can download a template for ‘My Story’ from the bottom of this page.

What to do if you are concerned about a child

The early years of a child’s life are a key time for development. It is important that any special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) are found as early as possible.

Having a Special Educational Need or Disability could mean that a child has:

  • difficulties with communication
  • difficulties with learning and understanding
  • impaired sensory development
  • behavioural difficulties
  • difficulties relating to other people
  • difficulties concentrating
  • physical needs or impairments

It is important to remember that children develop at different speeds and in different ways. You should not assume that because a child is developing more slowly than others that they have special educational needs or a disability.

However, if you’re concerned contact / speak to:

  • the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCo) by emailing or telephoning 0161 778 0384.

The Role of the Starting Life Well Service Early Years Inclusion Advisors

Early Years Inclusion Advisors provide advice; support and guidance to early years childcare providers on the development of an inclusive early learning environment, ensuring arrangements are in place to support children with SEND. They advise settings on how children with SEND learn and develop and how they can best support and plan to meet the individual children’s needs. The Early Years Inclusion Advisor helps make the links between education, health and social care to facilitate appropriate early years provision for children with SEND and their transition to compulsory schooling.

Typically, the role of the Early Years Inclusion Advisor includes:

  • Providing advice and practical support to early year’s childcare providers about approaches and stages of the graduated approach and their legal responsibilities within the SEND Code of Practice.
  • Strengthening the links between parents, settings, schools, social care and health services.
  • Developing and modelling good practice.
  • Supporting settings to develop appropriate individual play plans for children using the plan, do, review cycle.
  • Empowering settings to make referrals to outside agencies when it is necessary and providing all documentation to support these processes.
  • Supporting settings with the completion of Education Health Care Plan’s (EHCP’s) and gathering of evidence needed.
  • To promote and allocate effective use of services, funding and resources available locally.
  • Supporting the development and delivery of training for settings and offering targeted training to meet the needs of children in the settings.
  • They facilitate peer to peer supported sessions for all early years SENCO’s and offer support with sensitive, stressful and emotional topics.
  • They will work flexibly to respond to different support needs of each setting
  • They carry out assessments to identify support needed and create an action plan of support for the childcare setting.
  • The Early Years Inclusion Advisors play an important part in planning for children with SEND transitioning internally in an existing setting or to another early year’s provision or school.

How to contact:

There is no referral required however Early Years childcare providers SENCO’s can access support from the SLW Early Years Inclusion Advisors by sending an email outlining the nature of support required to or telephoning 0161 778 0384.

Settings Local Offer

Every setting in Salford is invited to contribute to the Local Offer by doing the following:

Please use the downloadable template (available from the bottom of the page) to let us have the local offer for your childcare setting. There is also a useful prompt sheet available to download with the type of information you should include.

Feedback from childcare providers who have received Early Years Inclusion Advisor support

“We have had a significant number of children on our SEN register since we opened our first nursery in January 2014.

V.. has had a great input as our Area SENCO and has performed many nursery support visits to our two settings.

V.. has assisted with our play plans and monitoring of children as we have many agencies involved with each of our children.

V.. has attended Family Support Meetings for one of our children and gives support to my staff team whenever required, and has informed us of relevant training courses to attend to improve professional knowledge.

V.. always ensures we have up to date documents and information at all times.

We know that we can always ring or email V.. at any time and get an immediate reply to our queries. Overall the support given to my SENCO staff is outstanding”.

“I have always found the service provided to be professional and helpful. They have supported my setting and ensured that the children and parents receive correct and up to date advice. I have used the service for training purposes and to signpost parents onto relevant services. We have received support for parents at meetings such as transitions. The service has given support for the setting in advising which children to refer to EHCP and educational Psychologist services”.

“I will be able to implement and use my knowledge to ensure observations, play plans, planning and the care of the SEN children is the best we can offer. I am now able to understand and complete play plans properly with the full understanding of why and how they work and what they are used for.

V.. and R.. spoke about play plans and spoke to us about how they work and why they are so important, knowing this information we are now able to ensure we are taking that extra care with the complete knowledge and completing the play plans to our full potential, V.. and R.. was very helpful when questions were asked and any questions or worries were answered perfectly and were very helpful to ensure everybody felt like they understood”.

Useful documents/links to other support

  • Providing childcare for children with SEND; a series of resources to support childcare providers who want to make their settings  more inclusive and provide care for children with special educational needs and disabilities.

Downloadable documents

If you are unable to view documents of these types, our downloads page provides links to viewing software.

This page was last updated on 23 August 2023

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