Support for learners

Page updated on: 16/03/2018

The terms ‘additional learning needs’ (ALN) or ‘special educational needs’ (SEN) refer to children who have learning difficulties or disabilities that make it harder for them to learn or access education than most children of the same age. Many children will have ALN of some kind at some time during their education.

Children progress at different rates and will be supported in different ways according to their needs. Some children may need to focus on certain skills such as reading or social skills. They may need to work in small groups, sometimes with a teaching assistant.

Teachers may seek the support of specialist professionals, for example advisory teachers or an educational and child psychologist. As part of this process your child may be assessed. This is to help decide on the best way to support them with their learning.

Help with specific needs
All schools have an Additional Learning Needs Co-ordinator (ALNCo) who will guide and assist you if you have any concerns about your child’s development.

Children learn at different rates, and each individual is unique. We all have different strengths and weaknesses with learning. Some children will have a lot more difficulty than their friends when it comes to learning. If children are three years or more behind expected levels, after teachers have tried different ways of helping, this can be called Moderate Learning Difficulties (or M.L.D) or General Learning Difficulties (or G.L.D.).

Children with Moderate Learning Difficulties may have problems with:

  • Basic literacy skills
  • Basic numeracy skills
  • Understanding of new concepts
  • Listening / attention skills
  • Applying what they know to other situations

They will often have low self esteem, low levels of concentration and low motivation. They may refuse to try new work because they think they will fail before they start. They need support to access the curriculum.

How will my child's school help?

  • Differentiating tasks – making them simpler
  • Offering different ways of recording information, such as labelled pictures, diagrams or flow-charts
  • Multi-sensory activities
  • Breaking down learning into small steps
  • Helping children to organise their written work by using writing frames
  • Allowing extra time to complete tasks
  • Keeping instructions short and clear
  • Praising achievements

Some children will work with a teaching assistant – before, during or at the end of a lesson. Children should be encouraged to work independently whenever possible.

Parents and carers should speak to their child’s school initially if they have any questions about their child’s ability to learn.

Advisory Teacher: Steve Campbell 01267 246466

  • Children learn to read and write at different rates. Some children will have particular problems with reading and writing. This can affect their learning overall. Sometimes this is called Dyslexia.
  • Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that mostly affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling.
  • It may also affect speech and language, motor co-ordination, mental calculation, concentration and personal organisation.

How will my child's school help develop their reading and writing skills?

  • Class work will be differentiated so that children are expected to learn and complete tasks at their own pace.
  • Good support involves partnership – with children, parents, teachers, teaching assistants and other professionals.
  • Teaching needs to be learner centred, with the child involved in planning and delivery to meet their needs.
  • In the early years, in the Foundation Phase, children learn through spoken language. ChATT (Carmarthenshire’s Children’s Assessment and Teaching Tool) helps to pick up if children have speech and language problems, which can link with dyslexia.

If children have longer term problems, school may ask for advice and support from an Advisory teacher. They might recommend a programme for your child to follow, sometimes in small groups or one-to-one for part of the day.

Parents and carers should speak to their child’s school initially for any questions about learning to read and write.

Advisory Teacher Viv Thomas 01267 246460

The following website may be useful for more information:

Children learn number skills at different rates. Some children will have a particular difficulty with learning number skills, concepts and facts. Sometimes this is called Dyscalculia.

They might have problems with:

  • following sequences
  • space organisation
  • pattern recognition
  • visualisation
  • estimation

They might:

  • struggle to ‘see’ that four objects are 4 without counting
  • struggle to move beyond counting on in ones
  • depend on using their fingers/blocks
  • find subtraction difficult because it requires counting backwards and they can lose track

How will my child's school help develop their number skills?                         

  • Children with particular problems with maths need to be explicitly taught numerical skills.
  • Tasks need to be learner-centred, using multi sensory resources and be completed at the child’s own pace.
  • Sometimes children will work in small groups, maybe with a Teaching Assistant, on catch up maths.

Parents and carers should speak to their child’s school initially if they have any questions about their child’s ability with maths or working with numbers.

Advisory Teacher: Viv Thomas 01267 246460

Children develop motor and co-ordination skills at different rates. As they grow, some children will have difficulties with fine (small) and gross (large) movements. Sometimes this is called Developmental Co-ordination Disorder (or D.C.D) or Dyspraxia. This can affect their ability to do everyday things, and they struggle with skills that others their age can do easily. Things like:

  • Balancing, in PE
  • Ball games
  • Pencil control
  • Picking things up
  • Using scissors

D.C.D affects more boys than girls. It can overlap with other things such as Dyslexia. It can make children more tired than their friends, can affect attention and concentration, and can impact on social interaction. It can affect organisation and personal care such as eating, dressing and toileting. It often makes a child frustrated and can lead to behaviour problems. 

How will my child's school help?
Schools should notice if children have difficulty with posture, organising and sequencing work or writing. For children with D.C.D. difficulties teachers can:

  • Differentiate, by offering tasks like labelling or cloze worksheets (fill in the gaps)
  • Offer alternative ways of recording work, including using ICT
  • Offer different types of pens, pencils or pencil grips
  • Say instructions and explain tasks more than once
  • Allow time for children to process information
  • Use colour and imagery to highlight key points or important information
  • Use talk to demonstrate knowledge and understanding, with activities such as
    • hot seating (speaking as a character)
    • mini presentations
    • envoying  (sending one member to gather information and report back to the group)
    • listening triangles (in threes, speaker gives opinion or information, listener listens carefully, observer notes and gives feedback to both)

Parents and carers should speak to their child’s school initially if they have any questions about their child’s co-ordination or motor skills.

Advisory Teacher: Steve Campbell 01267 246466

The following websites may be useful for more information:

The ability to communicate is an essential skill for all children and young people. Communication is vital for children:

  • to make friends
  • to be confident
  • to control their behaviour

Language skills are the basis of all learning, including learning to read, write, reason and problem solve.

How will my child's school help develop their language skills?
Schools follow a Pathway to support all children with developing effective Speech, Language and Communication skills so that they can access learning at an appropriate level and socialise. Schools can access help and support if a child or a group of children have more detailed needs.

In Carmarthenshire all children are screened when they enter school, to find out if they have any speech, language or communication needs. Carmarthenshire’s ChATT (Children’s Assessment Teaching Tool) programme is used to support children to develop their skills in speech, language and communication.

If a child has more severe or complex needs, school may refer to the Communication Forum, a multi-agency, specialist team. The Forum will advise school on the best support for the child. 

Carmarthenshire's Speech and Language service works closely with Speech Therapy services from the Health Trust. They develop packages of support together to help combat early signs of difficulties and support children with complex speech, language and communication difficulties.

Parents and carers should speak to their child’s school initially if they have any questions about their child’s speech, language and communication development.

Advisory Teacher: Emma Griffiths 01267 246464

The following websites/documents may be useful for more information:

Some children have severe learning difficulties, which means that they have significant problems with intellect and cognition. They may need a lot of support with all areas of their lives, including school. In addition, they may experience difficulties with mobility, co-ordination and communication. Some children may have sensory or physical disabilities, complex health needs or issues with mental health.  

Children with severe or profound and multiple learning difficulties need to experience learning at an appropriate level for them. They need plenty of opportunities to repeat experiences that focus on developing their communication, sensory, physical development and take account of their complex physical and mental health needs.

How will my child's school help?
Children with severe learning difficulties will usually go to a special school or specialist setting. They should make progress in school. This is often below Level 1 of the National Curriculum, and is measured against a system called Routes for Learning. They will have a Statement of Educational Needs or Individual Development Plan, which sets out their targets and how these will be met (see "What are my rights?").

Parents and carers should be involved in planning and meeting the child’s needs. Plans should be reviewed regularly – at least annually, though progress will be monitored continually.

Advisory Teacher: Steve Campbell 01267246466

The following links may be useful for more information:

  • Babies are screened in their first year for hearing loss. Hearing loss is described in four levels: mild, moderate, severe and profound. If hearing loss is picked up early, specialist Teachers of the Deaf, health visitors and other professionals will work with the child and their family to develop communication. They will link with the Education department so that we can help support the child before they start school.
  • Deaf children may communicate differently. They may use British Sign Language (BSL) and/or lip read. They may use digital hearing aids, cochlear implants or other sound systems.
  • For many children, hearing loss can be temporary, developing as they grow older. 80% of children will have an episode of glue ear by the age of ten. This is the most common cause of temporary deafness.

Children with emerging hearing loss may:

  • Not respond when called
  • Watch faces and lips carefully
  • Ask for things to be repeated
  • Ignore instructions, or get things wrong
  • Watch what others are doing before trying something
  • Ask for help often
  • Seem to be daydreaming
  • Talk too loudly or too quietly
  • Not join in
  • Be tired, frustrated or alone.

Any hearing loss will affect listening skills, language development and literacy skills. It can affect concentration, memory, social skills and self esteem.

How will my child's school help?
Teachers can help children with hearing loss in classrooms by:

  • Making sure the child is facing the teacher and paying attention, before talking
  • Speaking clearly, naturally and at a normal rate
  • Not covering their face with their hands while talking
  • Not walking around the room or turning around while talking
  • Repeating what other children say
  • Ensuring that one person speaks at a time
  • Avoiding noisy equipment such as printers or projectors
  • Keeping noise levels down, as hearing aids amplify all noise
  • Using key words, topic headings or visual aids to show when there is a new conversation

Parents and carers should speak to their child’s school initially if they have any questions about their child’s hearing or sight.

The Local Authority has several specialist Teachers of the Deaf (TODs) who are available to assess and support your child’s education as required. It also has specialist primary and secondary school provision which may be suitable for children with the most significant hearing losses. See Specialist Provision

Sensory Impairment Manager: Sallie Durbridge 01267 246406

The following websites may be useful for more information:

In Wales around 0.2% of the school population has a significant visual impairment. A visual impairment is where vision cannot be fully corrected by wearing glasses/lenses.

However, research suggests that as many as 10% of learners may have an undetected refractive error – meaning that their ability to learn and actively participate in lessons is impaired due to not seeing an optometrist and wearing glasses. So up to 3 children in each class might have their learning affected by reduced vision that has not been picked up.

Signs of visual impairment in children:

  • Loss of attention and concentration.
  • Frequent daydreaming.
  • Poor handwriting.
  • Clumsiness.
  • Lack of eye contact.
  • Loses place when reading.
  • Difficulties respecting other children’s personal space.
  • Gets tired quickly.
  • Needs longer than others to complete tasks.
  • Finds it difficult to read small print.
  • Finds it difficult to read from the whiteboard.
  • Complains frequently of headaches.
  • Often rubs their eyes.
  • Finds it difficult to copy.
  • Overly depends on peer support to complete tasks / get around.
  • Finds it difficult to interpret drawings / pictures if the contrast isn’t good.

How will my child's school help?

Teachers can help children with visual loss in classrooms by:

  • Having stimulating learning environments and accessible curriculum materials
  • Risk assessing environments to ensure the safety of learners with visual impairments
  • Making sure reading material has clear print (Arial font size 14) on A4 paper as a minimum provision (some children will require larger print)
  • Differentiation – including alternative equipment and teaching techniques
  • Appropriate lighting / blinds to meet the needs of individual children
  • Having a clutter free environment, with equipment stored in easily accessible places
  • Modifying and adapting educational materials
  • Thinking about seating
  • Having awareness training on the needs of individual learners

Parents and carers should speak to their child’s school initially if they have any questions about their child’s hearing or sight.

The Local Authority has Qualified Teachers of Children with Visual Impairment (QTVIs) and a Mobility / Habilitation Specialist service who are available to assess and support your child’s needs as required. See Specialist Provision.

Sensory Impairment Manager: Sallie Durbridge 01267 246406

The following websites may be useful for more information: 

Some children have longstanding (chronic) difficulty with movement, caused by a physical, genetic or medical condition. Movement is a key part of physical, social, emotional and intellectual development, so this will affect a child’s ability to take part in everyday school life. They will have to make more effort than other children.

Some common conditions are:

  • Cerebral Palsy: Affects posture and movement. This can range from mild clumsiness to severe, where the whole body is affected.
  • Duchene Muscular Dystrophy: Muscle weakness, affecting boys only, which gets worse as children get older.
  • Spina bifida: The effects can range from mild to severe. Children will need to use crutches or a wheelchair.

How will my child's school help?
Schools must make sure that children are included, and that they take into account children’s individual needs.

Children with physical or medical needs will have a Care Plan, Individual Development Plan or Statement of S.E.N. School staff need to know this plan and use it in their planning.    

Schools have a duty under the Equality Act 2010 to make reasonable adjustments to ensure there is no discrimination against disabled people.

Schools also need to be aware that any bullying can damage self esteem and confidence, and needs to be dealt with according to school bullying policy

Parents and carers should speak to their child’s school or doctor initially if they have any questions about their child’s physical or medical problems.

Advisory Teacher: Steve Campbell 01267 246466

The following websites may be useful for more information:

Autism (or autistic spectrum disorder) is a developmental disorder which affects the way a person communicates with other people and relates to the world around them. Children are affected in different ways. These can include:

  • Sensory issues – unusual responses to sound, smell, touch, taste and visual input
  • Speech and language  – lack of and/or unusual development of speech, literal interpretation of language and language processing difficulties
  • Repetitive or obsessive behaviours and intense interests
  • Social interaction – difficulties understanding social rules, behaviour and relationships
  • Social communication – verbal and non-verbal communication such as gestures, tone of voice, facial expressions
  • Rigidity of thinking and difficulty with social imagination

These problems present differently for each child. High levels of anxiety are commonly experienced by children with autism.

How will my child's school help support their needs?
Supporting children with social communication difficulties in the classroom is done by considering the children’s experience and making some simple changes. Schools’ good practice should include:

  • A language rich environment which encourages language learning
  • Clear, precise language reinforced with visual prompts, (words, symbols and pictures), to support learning
  • Differentiation of information and explanations
  • Modelling and teaching of social skills
  • Multi-sensory learning experiences and consideration of sensory differences
  • Adapting conditions and teaching style to suit particular needs of pupils (e.g. volume of noise, proximity in the room, time pressured tasks)
  • Elklan, Talkabout or other speech and language strategies
  • Screening and monitoring of progress
  • Discussion with parents and carers to get the most information possible, and using this information to inform planning and teaching
  • Awareness of children who think ‘differently’ and exploration opportunities which enable them to succeed                               

Parents and carers should speak to their child’s school initially for any questions about social, communication and autistic problems. If school have concerns, they may refer the child to a multi-agency Panel to discuss the best way to support the child.

Advisory Teacher: Emma Wheeler 01267 246461

The following websites may be useful for more information:

Some children speak a language other than English or Welsh as their first language, either because they were born in a different country or because their parents speak a different language at home. In school, they learn English or Welsh as a second (or third) language.

They learn it mostly through the normal school day, through playing and socialising, and through learning other subjects. Research says this is the best way to learn a language.

Being bilingual has a positive effect on performance, and children should be encouraged to use their home language. It can take up to ten years to become fluent in a second language. Children learn social language first, and it takes longer to learn academic language. Like learning any language, spoken language comes first, before reading and writing.

The rate at which children learn depends on a number of things, including:

  • Previous literacy in first language
  • Age at the time of starting to learn a second language
  • Family background and support
  • Academic ability

Children need support to develop their language skills.

How will my child's school help develop their English or Welsh language skills?

  • Ensuring school is a safe, welcoming environment
  • Speaking clearly and at a normal pace
  • Avoiding idioms and colloquialisms
  • Making learning visual and multi-sensory
  • Reinforcing language – spoken and written
  • Planning collaborative learning activities, where children learn from each other, and good models of English.

Parents and carers should speak to their child’s school initially if they have any questions about their child learning English or Welsh as an additional language (EAL/WAL). Each school has an EAL Co-ordinator. The school may contact our Minority Ethnic Achievement Service for support.

Service Manager: Victoria Owens 01267 246755

The following Welsh Government document may be useful for more information:

Children may experience problems with behaviour for a period of time in their school life, for a range of different reasons. These problems can disrupt a child’s learning and well-being. They can affect others’ learning and well-being. It is in everyone’s interest to try different things, to minimise the impact on learning.

How will my child's school help develop their social, emotional and behavioural skills?

Where schools work to promote positive behaviour, these problems can be reduced and even prevented. However, each child and each school is different, and some children will need more help to manage their difficulties.

Schools should have:

  • A whole school behaviour management policy which is used consistently by all staff.
  • A whole school anti-bullying policy which is used consistently by all staff.

They might also use some of these approaches:

  • Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning (SEAL) in the curriculum, across the school.
  • Playground peacemakers (Primary) and peer mediation (Secondary).
  • Thinking detectives – small group work for early years (up to yr 4).
  • Circle time.
  • Social skills programmes.
  • Positive Play (Primary) or Positive Support (Secondary).
  • School based counsellors.
  • Nurture classes.

If school is very concerned about a child’s behaviour, emotions or social skills, the SENCo might ask for advice from an Educational and Child Psychologist.

The following websites may be useful for more information:

Gypsies and travellers are a protected group under the Equality Act 2010. There are different groups of gypsies and travellers, with different historical backgrounds, culture and traditions.

Children from gypsy and traveller heritage sometimes need extra support in school because:

  • They might miss school due to travelling with their families
  • They might have a different attitude to education and school, which can lead to low attendance and attainment
  • They might have different aspirations for the future than most of their classmates
  • They might suffer from bullying
  • Their educational outcomes are low, traditionally, and this is an area that needs to improve. 

How will my child's school help children from gypsy and traveller backgrounds?                      

  • Schools should be inclusive, welcoming and understanding of children who are gypsies and travellers, and their families.
  • If children miss school due to travelling, they should liaise with the family to arrange work for children to do while away.
  • They should monitor progress and might offer catch up sessions on basic skills.

Parents and carers should speak to their child’s school initially if they have any questions about their children. The school may contact our Traveller Education Service for support.

Gypsy Traveller Service Co-ordinator: Caroline Hodson 01554 742472

How we work with families
Our small team works with families if children are enrolled at school. This is organised around demand, with priority given to children in most need first, new pupils to the area for example.  Families can be supported with their child’s schooling by:

  • attending meetings at schools with parents,
  • going over written information to ensure parents understand what is going on at their child’s school,
  • help with letter writing and completing school applications,
  • helping with transition from Primary to Secondary.

The following websites may be useful for more information:

Children’s ability to concentrate and focus develops as they grow older. It is different for all children. Some children will have a particular difficulty with paying attention, with impulsiveness and/or with hyperactivity, more so than their friends. Sometimes this is called Attention – Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder or AD/HD.

Children with AD/HD difficulties may:

  • Seem not to listen to what is being said
  • Have trouble organising themselves
  • Get easily distracted
  • Fidget
  • Get out of their seat and/or run around
  • Have trouble waiting and taking turns

These problems can be linked with behavioural and social difficulties.

How will my child's school help?  

Schools can help by:

  • Positively reinforcing good behaviour
  • Maintaining a calm atmosphere
  • Making sure reprimands and redirection are about the task
  • Being respectful of a child’s self esteem
  • Breaking down tasks and instructions to small steps
  • Teaching and supporting organisational skills
  • Offering a choice of rewards

Parents and carers should speak to their child’s school initially if they have any questions about their child’s ability to concentrate or focus.