Thank you for visiting Senploy. Unfortunately, we don't support your web browser, as it's no longer updated and not secure. Please use another browser to get the full Senploy experience.

All you need for careers in SEND

Job Seekers Register Here Search our vacancies 

The difference between SEN and disabilities

What is the difference between SEN and disabilities

What is considered a special educational need?

A child or young person has special educational needs if they have a learning difficulty or disability which calls for special educational provision to be made for him or her.

Learning disability is often confused with learning difficulties such as dyslexia or ADHD. Mencap describes dyslexia as a learning difficulty, because unlike learning disability, it does not affect intellect.

Examples of special educational needs

According to the charity, Child Law Advice, some examples of special educational needs are as follows:

  • emotional and behavioural difficulties (EBD);
  • Autism, including Asperger Syndrome;
  • Attention Deficit (Hyperactivity) Disorder (ADHD/ADD);
  • specific learning difficulties such as Dyslexia;
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder;
  • communication difficulties;
  • medical needs such as Epilepsy and Cerebral Palsy;
  • mobility difficulties.

What is considered a disability?

Disability in the main, is a physical impairment, but disabled children don't always need special educational help. It is a common misconception that SEN and disability are one and the same thing, when that is not always the case. Children with SEN can have a disability, but not necessarily so. Their requirements tend to be more around additional special educational support. As I write this blog, I am struck by the extent of possible disabilities and impact thereof on other issues for example how someone who has a physical disability or impairment could quite easily develop a mental health issue through having to deal with physical difficulties. Whilst SEN and Disability can be separate, they are very often a combination of issues.

Examples of disabilities

Disabilities could be as follows but certainly not limited to:

  • Paraplegia
  • Quadriplegia
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Spinal Bifida.
  • Muscular Dystrophy
  • Cardiac Ailments
  • Paralysis
  • Polio
  • Post-Polio Syndrome

According to Scope, 8% of children in the UK are disabled and disabled people are twice as likely to be unemployed. One of the many reasons Senploy spend so much time finding the best teachers to ensure these children have the best possible skills for working life after school. Indeed, it is worth reading Scope's everyday equality strategy, as this is what we should all be striving for.

The needs mentioned above means a child could have issues communicating or interacting, cognition and learning, social, emotional and mental health difficulties or sensory and/or physical needs. Scope defines a social model of disability as one which says ‘that people are disabled by barriers in society, not by their impairment or difference. Barriers can be physical, like buildings not having accessible toilets. Or they can be caused by people's attitudes to difference, like assuming disabled people can't do certain things.'

More into SEN

Nina Klang et al, wrote a paper published in October 2019 on Instructional Practices for Pupils with an Intellectual Disability in Mainstream and Special Educational Settings. In the paper they refer to the inclusion agenda within schools which we touched on in our last Senploy blog. They confirm that studies have ‘consistently shown that pupils with SEN placed in mainstream educational settings perform as well as or better than pupils with SEN placed in special educational settings. Concerning academic progress, the studies consistently show that there are either no differences in pupils' achievement in mainstream and special educational settings or that pupils in mainstream educational settings perform better.' They quote 'Ruijs and Peetsma ( 2009) suggesting that teachers' higher expectations and the higher focus on academic achievement in mainstream school settings might explain this result.

Tom Shakespeare states : ‘Impairment is a fact of life for all, but not everyone is a disabled person. Disability is highly diverse and personal, and we have to do justice to that complexity: people are disabled by society but also by their bodies and minds. Tom Shakespeare also quotes David Brandon: 'helping is not a socialised masochism, and the helper has also a right to satisfaction, joy and love from the process.'

Through Senploy, you will be able to find your highly rewarding position, teaching or supporting within this sector.

Comments (0)

Have your say



Required. Markup is stripped, blank lines are honoured