Glossary of SEN Terms
Additional support specifically for students sitting exams/controlled assessments.
The main term used within the school for needs presented by students that cannot be met by universal / Wave 1 approaches.
ADD/Attention Deficit Disorder
A specific learning difficulty typically presenting as exceptionally low concentration span, poor working memory, daydreaming / procrastination and slower thinking through of concepts, questions etc.
Apraxia refers to a wide variety of motor skill deficits in which the voluntary execution of a skilled motor movement is impaired. Apraxia can involve a single controlled movement, or a sequence of movements, such as writing a single letter or entire words.
Individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome are considered to be on the continuum of Autism. Individuals often appear to have typical language development so may have fewer problems with talking and understanding verbal communication. Asperger’s Syndrome may not become obvious until a child is older. The term Asperger's Syndrome is less common these days and the umbrella diagnosis of autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) is becoming more common. However, many people still use the term Asperger's syndrome.
Assistive technology (AT) is any piece of equipment, software program, or product system that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of a person with disabilities. AT can be electronic devices, wheelchairs, walkers, braces, educational software, power lifts, pencil holders, eye-gaze and head trackers, and much more. Assistive technology helps people who have difficulty speaking, typing, writing, remembering, pointing, seeing, hearing, learning, walking, and many other things. Different disabilities require different assistive technologies.
The ability to hear likenesses and differences in phonemes or words.
Autistic Spectrum Disorder
A psychological condition presenting itself in a variety of forms (Autism, Asperger Syndrome, Pervasive Development Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified), typically including specific learning difficulties centred around limited empathy, fixated / literal thinking, limited ability to interpret language, limited ability to engage in a variety of social situations / experiences etc.
Fast, automatic responses to the sounds of letters in blending sounds into words for spelling or reading, without conscious effort.
Moving from one sound to another to make a word: “P” “I” “g” = pig. The student must be able to hold onto the sounds to read the word.
Cognition is the mental processes involved in gaining knowledge and comprehension. These processes include thinking, knowing, remembering, judging and problem-solving. These are higher-level functions of the brain and encompass language, imagination, perception, and planning.
All the letters of the alphabet except for vowels.
Being able to read by breaking apart the component sounds of a word; blending of sounds to make a word.
Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD)
DCD is a motor skills disorder that affects five to six percent of school-aged children. DCD is thought to be more common in boys than girls, and the condition sometimes runs in families. DCD occurs when a delay in the development of motor skills, or difficulty coordinating movements, results in a child being unable to perform common, everyday tasks. By definition, children with DCD do not have an identifiable medical or neurological condition that explains their coordination problems. While many people in the UK use the term 'dyspraxia' to refer to the difficulties with movement and coordination that first develop in young children, the term is used less often by health professionals nowadays. Instead, most healthcare professionals use the term developmental co-ordination disorder (DCD) to describe the condition. This term is generally preferred by healthcare professionals because dyspraxia can have a number of meanings. For example, 'dyspraxia' can also be used to describe movement difficulties that occur later in life as a result of brain damage resulting from a stroke or head injury.
A statement or conclusion that describes the reason for a disease, illness, or problem.
Two consonants making one sound – 'sh', for example.
Two vowels making two separate sounds but said as one sound, as in 'ou' in mouse, and 'oi' in boil.
A specific learning difficulty typically presenting itself in one or more of the main areas of Math / numeracy – namely use of symbols, acquiring arithmetical skills particularly those requiring use of working memory, and spatial understanding. On the surface, these often relate to basic concepts such as: telling the time, calculating prices and handling change, and measuring and estimating things such as temperature and speed.
Dyslexia is a common learning difficulty that can cause problems with reading, writing and spelling.
It's a specific learning difficulty, which means it causes problems with certain abilities used for learning, such as reading and writing. Unlike a learning disability, intelligence isn't affected. It's estimated up to 1 in every 10 people in the UK has some degree of dyslexia.
Dysgraphia is taken from the Greek word, (dys) meaning "difficult" and (graphia) meaning "writing." It is a learning difficulty with impairment in written expression: the inability to write primarily referring to handwriting.
A specific learning difficulty based around the brain’s transmission of signals that control gross and fine motor skills - typically affecting planning of movements and co-ordination. It can also impact on language development in terms of coherence. Recently, the term 'developmental coordination disorder' has become the preferred term used by healthcare and education professionals to describe such difficulties.
To spell using the auditory sense to help put together the components of a word.
English as an Additional Language (EAL)
Referring to students who may have been born in the UK for whom English is not the first language at home and children not born in the UK, having arrived in the country after the acquisition of their first language (typically 5 years old or over).
The ability to write a correctly punctuated paragraph or more with ease and fluency.
Also known as otitis media with effusion, glue ear is a persistent build-up of fluid in the middle ear that can cause hearing problems. In many cases it will clear up by itself, but in more severe cases treatment could involve making a small hole in the eardrum, after which a tube (grommet) is inserted. Most children with glue ear do not need treatment after this time and the hearing is usually restored to normal. The grommet will usually fall out naturally after a year or so. If glue ear is not treated, children may have problems with talking, reading and writing.
The written representation of a phoneme or letter sound. The letter p represents the sound, “p.”
Grommets are tiny tubes that can be inserted into children's eardrums to treat conditions that affect the middle ear, such as recurrent middle ear infections and glue ear. Source: NHS
The ability to write legibly, with ease and at a pace equivalent to peers.
Education, Health and Care plan (EHC plan)
This is a statutory document. An EHC plan details the education, health and care support that is to be provided to a child or young person who has a Special Educational Need or a Disability (SEND). It is drawn up by the local authority after an EHC needs assessment of the child or young person, in consultation with relevant partner agencies, parents and the child or young person themselves
Difficulties based around fully or partially reduced functioning in one or both ear’s ability to detect and/or process sounds. Caused by a wide range of biological and environmental factors, loss of hearing typically arises in young people from a genetic / biological condition or injury to part/s of the ear.
Strategies and additional staffing put in place to ensure the inclusion and achievement of a student or group of students in the mainstream classroom.
Individual Educational Plan (IEP)
A document to plan and record actions being undertaken to meet the additional needs of a student.
A specific, evidence-based program or set of steps to help a child improve in an area of need.
A learning disability affects the way a person understands information and how they communicate. This means they can have difficulty understanding new or complex information, learning new skills and/or coping independently. Around 1.5 million people in the UK have a learning disability. It's thought up to 350,000 people have a severe learning disability. A learning disability can be mild, moderate or severe. Some adults with a learning disability are able to live independently, while others need help with everyday tasks, such as washing and dressing, for their whole lives. It depends on the person's abilities and the level of care and support they receive.
The term metacognition refers to the act of thinking about thinking. It is the ability for you to control your own thoughts. Metacognition can take many forms; it includes knowledge about when and how to use particular strategies for learning or for problem-solving. Being engaged in metacognition is a vital feature of effective independent learning.
Moderate Learning Difficulties
Definitions of Moderate Learning Difficulties vary. However, a common understanding is that there must be substantial difficulties (3+ years below standard progress) in two or more of the following areas: literacy, numeracy, speech and language, social skills, memory, concentration - typically in conjunction with an exceptionally low score on an individual test of intelligence and notable low self-esteem / independence in learning.
The smallest unit of meaning. In the word cats, cat is one morpheme, the s is another unit of meaning.
Using the ears, eyes, and hand senses to reinforce in the brain the components of language.
A Needs Assessment is a meeting between the student and an experienced study needs assessor. A Needs Assessment is required following an application for the Disabled Students Allowance. It helps identify what support a student needs based on their individual needs and based on their diagnostic assessment report (SpLD) or their medical evidence for a health condition. The student can attend a Needs Assessment at an Independent Assessment Centre or at their university or college, even if they don’t have a confirmed place yet. The nearest government approved assessment centre can be found by going to
Demonstrating a basic grasp of number, algebra, data, shape / space and measure etc.
The writing system of the spoken language – the spelling.
The smallest unit of sound such as “b” or “t” or tch = “ch”
Being able to manipulate phonemes within words by isolating sounds and blending them.
The skill of being able to divide words into phonemes. Pig = “p” “I” “g.”
The sounds and symbols of a language.
A psychometric test or assessment measure psychological characteristics such as behavioural styles, cognitive abilities, literacy attainment, etc. Psychometric tests are widely used in assessments for specific learning difficulties.
The ability to read a paragraph or more with ease and fluency.
Special Educational Needs
A sub-section of Additional Needs referring primarily to the needs presented by students who have a Statement of Special Educational Needs. Often abbreviated as SEN or ‘Special Needs’.
Specific Language Impairment (SLI)
Specific language impairment is a language disorder that delays the mastery of language skills in children who have no hearing loss or other developmental delays. SLI is also called developmental language disorder, language delay, or developmental dysphasia. It is one of the most common childhood learning disabilities, affecting approximately 7 to 8 percent of children in pre-school education. The impact of SLI can persist into adolescence and adulthood.
Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLDs)
An umbrella term cover a wide range of identifiable difficulties, usually inherent, that an individual may present with. When these difficulties are clustered together, often more definitive sub-sets are used such as ‘dyslexia’, ‘dyscalculia’, ‘ADHD’ etc. SpLDs can also co-occur with difficulties on the autistic spectrum such as Asperger Syndrome. In general, a student may be diagnosed with a SpLD where there is a lack of achievement at age and ability level, or a large discrepancy between achievement and intellectual ability. Specific learning difficulties should not be confused with ‘Learning Difficulties’ or learning disabilities which are generally applied to people with global (as opposed to specific) difficulties, indicating an overall impairment of intellect and function.
Speech, Language and Communication Needs
A range of specific learning difficulties related to all aspects of communication in children and young people. These can include difficulties with fluency, forming sounds and words, formulating sentences, understanding what others say, and using language for socially and learning.
Speech and Language
Understanding their first spoken language, acquiring new vocabulary, ability to express themselves clearly in sentences etc.
The ability to consistently spell common words and make a good attempts at unfamiliar words.
Spiky profile is a term used to describe students who have difficulties in a particular cognitive area but often show strengths in others. This is sometimes called a ‘spiky profile’. These individuals are often markedly different from those with moderate learning difficulties who appear to struggle in most or all areas of learning.
A test of intelligence or skill area measured against established norms / averages for that age group. A standardised test will typically lead to a ‘standardised score’, ‘age equivalent score’ and a ‘percentile rank’ which can inform psychological / diagnostic reports.
Statement of SEN or Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP)
Students who have an active Statement of Special Educational Needs outlining statutory action to be implemented by the school and external agencies will be placed in this category.
A word or part of a word always having a vowel sound: Fan tas tic has three syllables, Ath lete has two syllables, Spin has one syllable
Underlying ability essentially refers to intelligence or IQ. The term 'underlying ability' is often used as there are many misconceptions and misunderstandings of the term IQ. It is often used as the preferred term in diagnostic reports.
Difficulties based around fully or partially reduced functioning in one or both eye’s ability to detect and/or process images. Caused by a wide range of biological and environmental factors, loss of vision typically arises in young people from a genetic / biological condition or injury to part/s of the eye.
Visual Stress, sometimes called 'Meares-Irlen Syndrome', is the experience of unpleasant visual symptoms when reading, especially for prolonged periods. Symptoms include illusions of shape, movement and colour in the text, distortions of the print, loss of print clarity, and general visual irritation. Visual stress can also cause sore eyes, headaches, frequent loss of place when reading, and impaired comprehension. Visual stress is caused by the striped effect of black writing on white paper which causes over stimulation and excitation of the visual cortex Visual stress can have an adverse effect on the development of reading skills, especially reading fluency - i.e. the ability to recognise words quickly and to read longer passages of text in a smooth and efficient way so that good comprehension is maintained. There are no direct relationships between visual stress and long or short sightedness or dyslexia.
Two vowels representing a single sound: ai = “ā” or oe= “ō”.