BerkswichCE Primary School

Achieve, Believe and Care

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Areas of Need

The Four Broad Areas of Need

Communication and Interaction


This area encompasses many aspects of development that are interrelated. Some children who have difficulties in this area are referred to as having ‘Speech, Language and Communication Needs’ (or SLCN). This may indicate that they have difficulty with speech production, i.e. being able to make accurate speech sounds, or it may be that they have difficulty with understanding what is said to them. It may also include difficulties in the social use of language and communication, which can mean not knowing how to interact and play with others following the usual social rules.

Children with a diagnosis of autism or an autistic spectrum disorder (sometimes called autistic spectrum condition or ASC) have needs in this area, usually including difficulties with language, communication and imagination. Nasen 2022.


Cognition and Learning 


This area of need is also very broad, in terms of the impact that difficulties with cognition and learning have upon each individual child. Learning difficulties may be identified when a child continues to learn at a slower pace than their peers, even though they have had additional help and support. For a child in the Early Years Foundation Stage, this may be indicated by a lack of progress in the prime areas of development in spite of appropriate, effective and timely adaptations and interventions being made.


There are different degrees of learning difficulties: they can be described as Moderate (MLD), Severe (SLD), Profound & Multiple (PMLD) and also Specific (SpLD). These diagnoses can only be made by a suitably qualified professional. Children may be affected very differently by the level of learning difficulty that they experience, even if they share a diagnosis with other children. The extent of the learning difficulty experienced is unique to every child.


MLD, SLD and PMLD affect all areas of children’s learning, whereas SpLD are specific to a particular aspect of learning. SpLDs includes dyslexia, dyscalculia and dyspraxia. Many of these areas of difficulty may be present from the early years, but are often difficult to identify clearly. Nasen 2022

Social, Emotional and Mental Health


Social, Emotional and Mental Health (SEMH) is a broad term used to define a range of different needs children may have at any given time. This term has gained more and more attention as awareness has increased due to the impact that this can have on their wellbeing and ability to learn.




Children are, like all other humans, social creatures. Many have the skills to be able to communicate and exist around others fairly problem free (but not entirely!). However, where there is a communicative issue, attachment concern or other challenge, the child may find forming and maintaining relationships with adults and other children a problem. This can affect their sense of wellbeing, access to the community, ability to solve problems and learn effectively. Over time this may lead to more serious, persistent concerns. It is therefore vital we give children the skills and opportunities to interact with the world effectively to enable them to reach their full potential.




This topic is such a broad one covering emotional regulation, recognising and normalising emotions, managing stress, building resilience skills and understanding others’ emotions amongst many other things. Many emotional wellbeing problems do not need professional therapeutic intervention but do require someone to work therapeutically with them – that being listening, empathising and emotionally coaching.


A child who is having to deal with a transient issue that can cause low sense of wellbeing (bereavement, divorce, relationship breakdown) does not necessarily have a mental health problem. However, if they were to be unsupported in this difficult time and felt unable to cope over a long period of time, this could lead to problems that may require further intervention and may possibly lead to a mental health problem. Normal emotional responses to difficult periods are just that, normal. We do however have a role to support children through these times and teach the emotional regulation skills to help them to process what is happening, learn how to destress, understand how to communicate those issues and help them to identify their emotions. You can find recommended reading for this topic below.

Mental Health


When we talk about mental health in the context of SEMH meaning, we are moving more towards talking about a diagnosable mental health condition or a set of symptoms that might see someone seek professional support. A key feature of mental health challenges are seemingly irrational fears, obsessional pre-occupations, persistent intrusive thoughts, rumination, safety behaviours and actions/thoughts/feelings that are based on an issue the person may have with how they are processing the world around them.


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Physical and Sensory 


This area of need includes children with a hearing or visual impairment, children with multi-sensory impairments and children with physical impairments. Sometimes, children’s sensory and physical needs are identified very early on, in which case there is often a specific support service involved.

This could include physiotherapists, occupational therapists, teachers of the deaf and teachers of the blind. For other children, these needs emerge over time and it may take some time to secure the support of specific sensory impairment services. When children have multiple sensory and physical needs which are identified prior to compulsory school age, services such as Portage may be involved in offering the pre-school child and their family support in the homes.


Children with sensory or physical impairments do not necessarily have learning difficulties; in fact, they may have cognitive abilities at any level, but will probably require reasonable adjustments and auxiliary aids, in order to support their access to learning and development

opportunities. Some children with identified needs in this area will have associated learning difficulties, and may require targeted and specialist support in order to achieve their outcomes. Nasen 2022.