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18-01-2022 - - 0 comments
A-Z of SEN terms and phrases.

Teachers and the teaching assistants that support them are responsible for the progress and learning of all the students in their class including those that may have additional or special needs.

Lots of education professionals can feel out of their depth with this, especially if they haven’t worked with SEN children previously. With so many new words and acronyms to learn it can be overwhelming which is why we have put together this handy A-Z of special needs terms 

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A - Autism 

Autism is a developmental disorder that challenges children with social skills, repetitive behaviours, speech, and nonverbal communication.  

B - Behavioural difficulties

Behavioural difficulty is a disorder that involves a pattern of disruptive behaviours in children that last for at least 6 months and causes problems at school, at home and in social situations. 

C - Complex needs 

Complex needs can vary from a child being diagnosed with a certain illness, disability, or sensory impairment and in need of additional support on a daily basis.

D - Development Language Disorder

Development language disorder is where the child has significant, ongoing difficulties understanding and/or using spoken language. 

E-Education and Health Care Plan 

An educational health care plan is used for children and young people aged up to 25 who need more support than is available through special educational needs support. The plans identify educational, health, and social needs and set out the additional support that to meet those who need it. 

F - Fight, Flight or Freeze

This is a subconscious stress response to danger. Young people who experience elevated levels of stress may have this response triggered more easily and frequently than their peers.

G - Graduated approach 

A graduate approach in SEN is when actions are reviewed for a student’s needs and the support required to help them secure good outcomes. 

H - Hearing Impairments 

Hearing impairments refers to someone who has hearing loss and may need help during education. 

I - Individual Education Plan 

Individual Education Plan is a document that helps teaching staff to plan for your child, teach them and review their progress. 

J - Joint Council of Qualifications (JCQ)

Schools need to apply via the JCQ in order to secure examination access arrangements, such as extra time, for their students.

K - Kinaesthetic learning

Kinaesthetic Learning is a specific way of learning that helps certain students. This requires carrying out physical activities, rather than listening or watching demonstrations. 

L - Learning Difficulties 

Learning Difficulties, where children struggle to know basic knowledge and skills for their age usually this is due to a mental disability or cognitive disorder. 

M - Moderate learning difficulties 

Moderate learning difficulties, where children struggle to underrated basic concepts such as basic reading, writing, and numeracy skills. 

N - Neurodiversity

Conditions such as ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia.

O - Oppositional Defiant Disorder 

Frequent and persistent patterns of anger, irritability, arguing, defiance, or vindictiveness toward you and other students or staff.


Picture exchange communication system is a communication system for teachers to use for autistic children in the classroom.

R - Receptive language

Where children may struggle to interact with other students or with their teachers. Refers to how children understand the language. 

S - Safe Guarding 

 Action taken to promote children from being harmed such as abuse and maltreatment. 

T - Team Teach 

Training that handles “positive handling”, helps staff support children with challenging behaviour. 

U - Umbrella term

Special education need is an umbrella term that includes learning difficulties and developmental or physical disorders. 

V - Vestibular System 

Refers to structures within the inner ear, that detect movement and changes in the position of the head. Some vestibular seeking behaviours can be always spinning, running, moving, fidgeting.

W - WheelChair

Some children may need wheelchairs due to disability, it’s important it is used the correct way. 

Y - Young person 

You’re working with a lot of SEN children that are very young, you need to understand their needs and they may not understand what may be wrong with them so you need to know how to cope with these situations. 

Z- Zone of Proximal Development 

This may be when a child needs guidance, what they can do with assistance and what they can do without adult guidance compared to their peers.

Hopefully, the above should help you give a little more confidence or at the very least a point of reference if you require a reminder!

If you are currently looking for a teaching or teaching assistant role, then we can help. We work with both mainstream and special education needs schools across the West Midlands. You can take a look at our latest vacancies here.

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