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Physical Disability or Medical Needs

Do you have a child or young adult with a physical disability and/or medical needs who attends school or is soon to attend school? Our service can provide support to both the student and the school. We can provide this support in an educational setting or when the child or young person is starting their transition to an educational setting. 

We work to ensure all students with physical disabilities and medical needs can access the school curriculum. We do this through close liaison with:

  • The Council’s Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Support Teams
  • Key NHS Therapy Teams

Our key services include:

  • Advice on access to school equipment, resources, classroom and wider school environment
  • Advice on transitions for students with physical and/or medical needs
  • Advice on risk assessments for pupils with physical and/or medical needs
  • Advice on enabling and engaging pupils with physical and/or medical needs.
  • Advice and guidance to support pupils with Developmental Co-ordination Disorder
  • Advice on use of IT to promote inclusivity and independence throughout a student’s journey
  • Brochures for schools

For more information about how to make a referral, please see the Make a Referral section below.

We are:

Steve Deacon, Physical and Medical Needs Advisory Lead, East Cornwall (PL and EX postcodes, plus St Columb and Newquay).

Melinda Leishman, Physical and Medical Needs Advisor, West Cornwall (TR postcodes).

How Can I Make a Referral?

We accept requests for involvement from:

  • Schools (usually the SENDCO)
  • Other colleagues in the Council's SEND Support Services

Please complete the SEND Support Services Request for Involvement Form and Parent/Carer Consent Form. The eligibility criteria for each service is listed on each of these forms. 

Go to the Request for Involvement of SEND Support Services page

Download the Parent/Carer Consent Form

Once we have received the request for involvement and parental permission has been obtained, we will contact the school to arrange a visit to meet key staff and assess the needs of the student. We are usually able to visit the school within four weeks of receiving the referral. However, this can vary throughout the year. We share advice with key school staff, parents/carers and the student and produce a report outlining agreed actions and objectives.

We then offer ongoing support as appropriate to the student and the school.

For further information and guidance please see the Advice, Toolkits and Resources section below.

If your setting has a child with moving and handling needs due to physical disability, you will need to ensure that the staff supporting the child have appropriate training.

“Safer Moving and Handling Training” is available for mainstream (including ARB) school staff in Cornwall that support students who have a Moving and Handling Plan (this must be confirmed before training commences). 

The full day initial training package includes:

  • Legal requirements around Moving and Handling
  • Risk Assessment
  • Handling Plans
  • Intimate Care
  • Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans
  • How to keep your back safe
  • Introduction to handling aids
  • Practical tasks: Introduction to basic handling techniques, equipment and tasks

Refresher training is available for staff who have previously completed training and is recommended this be attended annually.

Training takes place at New County Hall, Truro.

Make a booking online or by contacting for more information.

Our Service can support educational settings to make reasonable adjustments. This will help to meet the curriculum access needs of children and young people with SEND.

Our service can support a setting to identify and assess the access needs of a learner. We can advise on access to:

  • The curriculum
  • The enrichment curriculum, e.g., school clubs, school trips 
  • Spoken and written information and advice
  • The physical school site

Cornwall’s Local Authority Accessibility Strategy includes an Accessibility Audit Tool. It supports settings in ensuring that they can: 

  • Identify adaptations needed, including adaptations for children and young people with sensory needs
  • Create solutions to accessibility issues if adaptations are not possible
  • Consult children and young people about physical accessibility
  • Consider adapting classroom interiors to meet a variety of needs

Provision of Auxiliary Aids and Services

The duty to provide auxiliary aids and services (including specialist equipment which could include laptops and tablets) includes schools. This places schools under a duty to provide aids and services where it is reasonable and where it would prevent a disabled pupil being put at a substantial disadvantage when compared to his or her non-disabled peers. The exception to this duty is where the aid or service is specified in a statement of SEND or an Education, Health and Care Plan in which case the responsibility to provide the aid or service lies with the Local Authority. Examples of auxiliary aids include coloured layovers, pen grips, adapted physical education equipment, adapted keyboards and computer software.

Further, more detailed, guidance information is available for schools from Physical and Medical Needs Advisors. 

What do we mean by Sensory Integration?

We are all aware that there are many different terms used to describe a person’s sensory needs. In Cornwall we have agreed the following description:

Sensory integration is about how our brain receives and processes sensory information. This lets us do the things we need to do in our everyday life. The term sensory processing is sometimes used interchangeably with the term sensory integration.

We may hear a person’s sensory needs described in different ways. For example as:

  • Sensory differences
  • Sensory seeking
  • Sensory overload
  • Sensory over-responsiveness

Often when these terms are used we are talking about sensory modulation. Problems with sensory modulation occur when our brain either over responds or under responds to sensory information. For some people the degree to which their brain under or over responds impacts on their ability to do the things they need to do in everyday life.


Sensory training is offered through the Children’s Community Therapy Service. 

Further Information

For further information download our Sensory Integration Definition document. This includes information about Ayres' Sensory Integration intervention (ASI).

This document was written by:

  • Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust Occupational Therapists
  • Cornwall Council SEND Support Services

Guidance for Families - The Equality Act 2010: Supporting Pupils with a Disability in School

Download the Equality Act Flowchart: Supporting Pupils with a Disability in School

Is your child disabled under the Equality Act?

The Equality Act says that a person has a disability if they have:

“A physical or mental impairment and the impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.”

  • Substantial means being more than minor or trivial
  • Long-term means lasting, or likely to last, for at least 12 months
  • A physical or mental impairment includes:
    • Learning difficulties
    • Mental health conditions
    • Medical conditions
    • Hidden impairments such as dyslexia, developmental coordination disorder, autism, and speech, language and communication difficulties

What must schools do to support pupils who have a disability?

Schools only have a duty to make reasonable adjustments if your child has a disability. When something a school does puts a disabled pupil at a disadvantage compared to other pupils, then school must make reasonable adjustments.

Reasonable adjustments are changes schools make to give a child or young person who is disabled, the same chance as anyone else to access school activities. The duty to make adjustments applies to all of the school’s activities and the decisions that are made by teachers and staff including:

  • Preparation for school
  • Teaching and learning
  • Classroom organisation
  • Timetabling
  • Grouping of pupils
  • Homework
  • access to school facilities
  • Activities to supplement the curriculum
  • School sports
  • School policies
  • Breaks and lunchtimes
  • Assessment and exam arrangements
  • School discipline and exclusions
  • School clubs and activities
  • School trips
  • School uniform
  • Careers education, information, advice and guidance
  • Work experience opportunities

Physical features of Schools

As part of their planning duties, schools must consider ways to make the buildings accessible for their disabled pupils. This may mean making changes to to physical features, such as adding ramps or lifts. Physical adaptions may be beyond a reasonable adjustment and in this case, the school must seek advice from outside services to assess the needs of the pupil and to build or install appropriate adaptions.

In some cases, rather than making building adaptations, accessibility issues can be ‘managed’ at a school level, for example swapping an inaccessible upstairs classroom with a ground floor classroom rather than installing an expensive lift. This would be a reasonable adjustment.

Schools are expected to provide auxiliary aids or a service for a disabled pupil when it would be reasonable to do so.

Examples of auxiliary aids include:

  • Coloured overlays
  • Pen grips
  • Adapted physical education equipment
  • Adapted cookery utensils
  • Alternative recording methods such as computers/tablets  

Schools must plan ahead 

The need to make reasonable adjustments is ‘anticipatory’. This means that a disabled pupil’s needs should be considered before and as part of planning any school activity.

As part of the Equality Act 2010, all schools must have an ‘Accessibility Plan.'

This plan must show how the school will:

  • Make sure disabled pupils can access the learning
  • Make sure disabled pupils are able to access the school site and facilities or services offered by the school
  • Make sure information is accessible to pupils who are disabled

The Equality Act says that the accessibility plan must take account of the pupils’ disabilities and the wishes of the pupils and their parents

The SEND Code of Practice 2015, states schools must publish an SEND Information report which includes information about:

  • Admissions of disabled pupils
  • What the school has done to  prevent disabled pupils from being treated less favourably than other pupils
  • How disabled pupils are helped to access the school site and its facilities

Services that support schools to meet an individual pupil’s needs

Cornwall Council have a number of services to support children with disabilities in school. They can be contacted for support if you feel your child’s needs are not being met within school. The services can work with the school to make sure reasonable adjustments are made in line with the Equality Act 2010.

What can you do if you think your child’s needs are not being met by their school?

In most cases, you should be able to resolve your problem informally, for example, by talking to your child’s teacher or head teacher.

If your problem isn’t resolved, you can make a formal complaint by following the school’s complaints procedure. This generally involves complaining in writing to the head teacher and then to the governing body. Further information can be found in the document 'Taking action about discrimination in schools' on the Citizen's Advice Website.  

Further Information

In 2015, the Department for Education (DfE) gave guidance and advice for how schools should support pupils with medical conditions.

It says that all schools must make sure:

  • That a pupil with a medical condition will still get their education, go on school trips and do physical education
  • That they have made plans about how they are going to support a pupil with a medical condition
  • They speak to health and social care professionals, pupils and parents to make sure that everyone understands the medical condition and what they must do to support the pupil

What support can I expect for my child?

When supporting a pupil with medical needs, the school should:

  • Make sure that parents and pupil are confident that the school knows how to support them
  • Make sure that staff are properly trained
  • Have a policy for supporting pupils with medical conditions. It must be reviewed regularly and parents and staff should be able to access it easily
  • Make sure that pupils can access school trips, visits, or sporting activities, and not stop them from doing so.

Some children with medical needs may also have disabilities and/or special educational needs. As in the Equality Act 2010, the school must make reasonable adjustments to make sure that disabled children and young people are not at a substantial disadvantage compared with their peers. This duty is anticipatory which means adjustments must be planned and put in place in advance, to prevent that disadvantage.

What is a Healthcare Plan?

  • A Healthcare Plan is a document that has information from health professionals, school nurses, parents, the pupil and other relevant professionals
  • A senior member of school staff must write this document.
  • It should have key information and actions that are needed to support the child in school
  • The healthcare plan should say what the school will do to help the pupil manage their condition and overcome any barriers to get the most from their education
  • The plan must be reviewed at least once a year or earlier if the pupil’s needs have changed
  • It should keep the pupil’s best interests in mind
  • The school must say how they will assess and manage risks to the child’s education, health and social wellbeing

The Healthcare Plan should include:

  • The medical condition, triggers, signs, symptoms and treatments
  • The pupil’s needs, including:
  • Medication (dose, side effects and storage) and other treatments
  • Facilities
  • Equipment
  • Testing/exams
  • Access to food and drink where this is used to manage their condition,
  • Dietary requirements
  • Environmental issues, e.g., crowded corridors, travel time between lessons;
  • Support for the pupil’s educational, social and emotional needs

For example, how the school will manage absences; how the school will help the child to take exams; how the school will help the child catch up with their lessons; and how the child can receive counselling:

  • The level of support needed, including in emergencies
  • If the child is in charge of taking their own medication and how this will be checked in school, this should be clearly stated along with how this will be monitored
  • Who will provide this support, what training they will have and what they are expected to do
  • Which staff are signed off by medical professional to provide the medical support needed
  • Who will support the child if the regular support staff are not available
  • Who in the school needs to be aware of the child’s condition
  • Written permission from parents and the headteacher to show they agree that medication should be given by a member of staff or that the child can be in charge of taking their own medication
  • Show what special arrangements will be made so that the child can take part in extra-curricular activities such as school trips and after school clubs
  • The people that will be allowed to see the plan (for example you may wish the plan to only be seen by senior or named staff if some information is confidential)
  • What to do in an emergency, including whom to contact

A Healthcare Plan is different to an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP). An EHCP defines outcomes and provision in school for pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities. A Healthcare Plan defines how to support a pupil’s medical needs whilst in school. For information on EHCPs please visit our ECH Plan web page.

As a parent/guardian, what can I do to support this?

  • Provide the school with up-to-date information about your child’s medical needs
  • Parents are key partners and should be involved in the development and review of their child’s individual healthcare plan
  • Carry out any action agreed to as part of the Healthcare Plan, eg provide medicines and equipment
  • Ensure you or another nominated adult are contactable at all times

Advice, Links and Resources

Guidance, Policies and Templates for Schools

Medical Conditions – Useful links for Schools

Further help

Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) and Motor Skills Development

Handwriting and using IT in School

Occupational Therapy Services

Bowel and Bladder Conditions

  • ERIC – aimed at supporting children/young people with bowel and bladder conditions. Also has information for schools to support and manage a student’s condition. Find sample care plans, resources and help sheets.
  • Bowel and Bladder UK - this organisation aims to improve awareness and solutions to bladder and bowel problems. It has resources and free confidential advice via the Bladder and Bowel UK helpline.

Physical Disabilities - Useful Links and Support

  • The Child Brain Injury Trust  - a charity that supports children, young people, their families and professionals. It helps them come to terms with what has happened and how to deal with the uncertainty that the future may hold.
  • Cerebra - a charity helping children with brain conditions. This website has downloadable parent guides.
  • PDNet - a free to join national network. It includes link sot free training, resources, accessibility tools and the PDNet Forum.

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