Social, Emotional, Mental Health as a Special Educational Need

SEMH and the SEND Code of Practice 0-25 years

The Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) code of practice 0-25 years (2014, p.98) has altered how young people’s needs are identified and classified. For instance: 

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  • It introduces Social, Emotional Mental Health as a new Special Educational Need (SEN), removing Behavioural, Emotional and Social difficulties.
  • It identifies that inappropriate, disturbing and or challenging behaviours are a sign of underlying or un-met need.
  • It outlines how the social and emotional difficulties experienced by children and young may manifest themselves. 

The identification of a child or young person as having SEMH as a primary area of special education needs should be a “last resort”.

By this it is meant that all other areas of SEN have to be fully investigated through the Assess, Plan, Do, Review process. Clear evidence needs to be produced showing that behaviours / unwanted actions are not a result of an unmet or undiagnosed need.

The main areas for investigation prior to assessing SEMH as a SEN are:

Communication and Interaction

Children and young people with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) have difficulty in communicating with others. 

They may have difficulty with one, some or all of the different aspects of speech, language or social communication at different times of their lives. 

Children and young people with ASC, including Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism, are likely to have particular difficulties with social interaction. They may also experience difficulties with language, communication and imagination, which can impact on how they relate to others. 

For more information visit Cornwall Council's Speech and Language Therapy Service, the Autism Spectrum Team, or the Augmentative and Alternative Communication team information pages. 

Cognition and Learning

Support for learning difficulties may be required when children and young people learn at a slower pace than their peers, even with appropriate differentiation. 

For more information visit Cornwall Council's Cognition and Learning Service information pages. 

Sensory and or physical

Some children and young people require special educational provision because they have a disability which prevents or hinders them from making use of the educational facilities generally provided. These difficulties can be age related and may fluctuate over time. Many children and young people with impairments will require specialist support and/or equipment to access their learning, or habilitation support. 

For more information visit Cornwall Council's Physical and Medical Needs Advisory Service, Hearing Support Team or Vision Support Team information pages.