Your study level

We've preselected "All levels" for you, but you can change your study level at any time by choosing one of the options on this menu. Changing your study level will return you to the beginning of the module.


First encounters and identifying needs

  • Emma's diagnosis
    Ruth talks about her feelings when her daughter's severe disabilities were diagnosed.
  • Premature birth
    Harvey's father talks about how his twins, Harvey and Lydia, survived birth at 25 weeks.
  • About Marley
    Marley's mother talks about the many disabilities her adoptive son has suffered.

Listen to these parents talking about their experiences.
First encounters and identifying needs

The initial period of finding out about a child’s disability is normally a highly stressful time for parents. They may be bewildered by what they are being told by professionals, and have little or no knowledge of what support they and their child are entitled to. Yet the earlier that a child with disabilities and SEN has access to appropriate support, the better the long term outcomes are likely to be.

Legislation may enable provision for identifying and meeting needs to be made, but in 'real life' there are many reasons that things may not be straightforward. Inconsistency between authorities and service providers may mean that while a child has certain legal rights, these may not have been exercised as early as would be desired.

Legislation about children with disabilities

Most, but not all, children with disabilities will be assessed as having SEN. The provision for these children falls within Part IV of the Education Act 1996 as amended by more recent legislation such as the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001. Provision for these pupils is guided by the SEN Code of Practice (2001).

A number of other statutes influence services for children and young people with SENs and disabilities, most notably:

These set out the broad legal framework and establish the rights of children with learning difficulties and disabilities
After diagnosis
A brown gavel in use in a court of law

Following identification of a child’s disability, the main contact for most parents is with medical and health professionals, although they also may already have contact with a social worker. Health services, typically through a health visitor, ensure that local authority children’s services are alerted, since it is that department that has a legal duty to provide services.

The legal framework for the majority of children’s services lies within the Children Act 1989 and the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970. However, other relevant legislation will be identified within this module.