Special Educational Needs Support (Early Years)

Little boy in glasses playing with duplo building blocks

Some young children who have Special Educational Needs, or Disability (SEND) have their needs identified from a very early age, sometimes soon after or even before birth, and other times their needs are more noticeable as they develop.  You know your child best and if you have concerns about your child’s development, or that your child may have special educational needs or a disability you may want to seek advice or support from your: 

  • Health visitor 

  • GP (doctor) 

  • (If your child attends an early years setting) their key person  

These professionals work with all young children. This is call Universal Provision. They will listen and respond to your concerns and aspirations. They can assess your child, observe your child over time, signpost or make referrals to relevant professionals or services and support you. Child and Family Centres can also support you by helping with information and advice about services.   

All early years and childcare providers have a responsibility to identify children with special educational needs (SEN) and make sure they put in place support as early as possible to help them learn and progress. 

Healthy Child Review (2-year-old check)

All children will be offered a Healthy Child assessment with the health visiting team when they are between 2 - 3 years of age. You will be asked to compete a questionnaire about your child’s skills, and you are able to raise any concerns about your child’s development. You will be offered a meeting to go through the assessment and further discuss any concerns if needed. In some areas you may be invited to attend a group session where you can discuss your child’s progress with a Health visitor or nursery nurse and a Child and Family Centre worker.  

Early Years Settings

The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) is the national framework for learning, development and care for children from birth to the end of Reception year. All registered early years and childcare providers (nurseries, pre-schools, childminders) must follow this framework. The identification of SEN is built into the overall approach to monitoring the progress and development of all children. If your child is falling behind or not making adequate progress, you should be told as soon as possible and involved in discussions about extra help or support needed. Early Years settings will work with you, seeking your views and opinions and working in partnership with you to best support your child.  

This framework includes two specific points where written assessments or progress checks must be provided to parents/carers – when a child is aged between two and three and when they turn five. 

Progress checks

When your child is between two and three, their early years and childcare provider must give you a short, written summary of their development. Ideally this is completed at the same time as your Healthy Child Review. The progress check will identify your child’s strengths and any areas where their progress is not as expected. If there are any concerns, they will discuss these with you and what support to put in place to help your child. 

The progress check at the end of the EYFS is usually completed in the final term of the year in which your child turns five. This is known as the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile and informs you about your child’s development and makes the transition into year 1 smoother. It is a summary of your child’s attainment at the end of their Reception year and is not a test, your child cannot pass or fail.  

To find out more about the Early Years Foundation Stage download the parents guide “What to expect in the Early Years Foundation Stage” 


When children need extra help

You should be fully involved in the discussions about your child's needs, the support that is needed and regular reviews of their progress. This will take the form of a four-part cycle of assessing needs, planning support, putting the support in place and reviewing the outcomes. This is known as a graduated response or the assess-plan-do-review cycle. 

Help from other services

If your child’s nursery, pre-school or early years setting feels that your child needs help from other services they will talk to you about their concerns and may suggest that an assessment called an Early Help Assessment (EHA) is completed. This is the way that they can identify strengths and needs with you and consider who else can support your child and family. Professionals from across Education, Health or Social Care may become involved at this point.

Who will the Lead Professional Be?  

The person completing the Early Help Assessment with the parents/carers is known as the Lead Professional, until the first Team Around the Family meeting. At any Team Around the Family Meeting the Lead Professional can be changed to be a professional of the family’s choice. This is usually the professional the family see most frequently and as such is often a representative of the Early Years Setting the child attends. 

What is a Team around the Family (TAF)?  

This is a term used to describe the group of professionals, volunteers and members of the wider family who are involved in supporting the child and family. The Team Around the Family could just be the Lead Professional and the family.  

The Team Around the Family works through regular meeting (Team Around the Family meetings) set up and chaired by the Lead Professional to coordinate the work agreed in the Family Plan. The Family Plan will be reviewed, its impact monitored, changes made as required, to achieve the outcomes for the family. These normally occur within 8 weeks of the EHA being completed, then every 6 months. 


Some of the services who may support your child are listed below: 

Early Support 0 - 5  

Children 0-5 years who have significant and complex additional needs requiring on-going support from specialist services are referred to Early Support. This is a way of working that aims to improve the delivery of services for these children and their families. It enables specialist services to coordinate their activity better and provide families with a single point of contact keeping families and children at the centre of decision making. 


Children’s Speech and Language Therapy 

Speech and Language Therapists are employed by the NHS and are based in clinics as well as working in education settings. They work with children to assess their speech, language and communication difficulties. Parents can take their preschool children to an Early Advice session, which is a video consultation enabling you to discuss your concerns with a Speech and Language Therapist. They will advise you on next steps for your child during the appointment.  

Children’s Occupational Therapy 

Children’s Occupational Therapists and Therapy Assistants see children at home, in school or in a clinic setting and work across both health and social care. Their role is to help children and young people participate in normal everyday activities such as play, participation in school/nursery and manage personal care. They can also give advice on how to adapt environments in order to help make them safe and accessible. They can also provide advice on how to manage sensory needs. You can obtain advice from them on their helpline 0300 029 5050 (Option 3).  


Disabled Children's Social Care 

Children with disabilities may be eligible for support from our Disabled Children’s Social Care services. Families are encouraged to join our Special needs Community Information Point (SCIP) which offers an information and advice service for families with 0–19-year-old with a disability or additional needs. 

Educational, Health and Care Needs Assessment

If your child needs long term significant extra help, you can request a formal assessment of their learning needs takes place. Alternatively, other professionals working with your child such as their childcare provider or specialist teacher may suggest that a formal assessment of their learning needs is requested. This involves looking in detail at your child’s needs, the extra help that has already been put in place and identifying what extra support they may need. It may result in an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan. 


Education, Health and Care Plans

A small number of children with significant and complex additional needs may have an Education, Health and Care plan which identifies support needed across education, health and social care. These are most commonly discussed with parents and carers the year before a child starts school. You can find out more on the Education, Health and Care Plan page. 


Related Pages

  1. Early Support
  2. SEND Service 0-25
  3. 0-25 Disability Social Care

External Links

  1. NHS Cambridgeshire Community Early Advice Sessions
  2. Cambridgeshire Children's Occupational Therapy
  3. Child and Family Centres


Skip back to top of page