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As part of a series of articles focusing on education following a brain injury, Laxmi Patel, from Brain injury Group member law firm, Boyes Turner, explains what Special Educational Needs (SEN) are.

What are Special Educational Needs?

A child has Special Educational Needs (SEN) if they have difficulty accessing education in comparison to their peers. Whilst, in most cases, it is clear whether a child does or does not have SEN, a child’s difficulties may not always be apparent after brain injury.

It might be helpful to consider the legal test under The Children & Families Act 2014. This states that a child or young person (CYP – where a young person is 16-25 years) has SEN if they have a ‘learning difficulty’ or ‘disability’ which requires ‘special educational provision’.

A CYP has a ‘learning difficulty’ if they:

  • Have a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others of the same age; and/or
  • Have a disability which prevents or hinders them from making use of facilities of a kind generally provided for others of the same age in mainstream schools or mainstream post-16 placements.

‘Disability’ is defined by the Equality Act 2010. A person is disabled if they:

  • Have a physical or mental impairment. The court has ruled that this simply means something physically or mentally ‘wrong’;
  • The impairment is long-term. This means that it will last more than 12 months or has a repeated short-term impact which will, in total, last more than 12 months; and
  • The impact of the impairment is significant. The court has given little guidance on this and has simply indicated that the impact cannot be minor or trivial.

‘Special Educational Provision’ is defined as being:

  • For CYP over two years old, educational provision that is additional to or different from the provision generally made for CYP of their age in mainstream maintained schools in the area.
  • For children under two years old, educational provision of any kind.

Children with a brain injury may need extra support in the classroom for any of the following reasons. Sometimes, the individual difficulties may be considered minor but the combined impact of them may be significant.

Types of difficulties that may be considered a Special Educational Need

  • Memory – short term and working memory so a child cannot remember a set of instructions or what they have learnt
  • Aphasia (language loss) – receptive and/or expressive language difficulties. Specific problems with reading, writing or spelling may also occur
  • Visual-perceptual skills – making sense of visual information. This impacts many areas of development and function including fine and gross motor skills, self-care skills etc.
  • Reduced concentration – difficulty multi-tasking
  • Reduced ability to process information
  • Reduced motivation to start tasks or stay on track
  • Impaired reasoning skills – difficulty following a discussion or to follow rules
  • Reduced empathy – affecting socialisation and confidence
  • Reduced executive functioning – affecting planning, problem solving, reasoning, decision-making and self-monitoring. For example they may lose their train of thought and go off at a tangent or be very rigid in their thinking
  • Difficulties with fine motor skills e.g. trembling limbs which will affect handwriting and self-help skills
  • Difficulties with mobility, likely to fall
  • Sensitive to sensory overload e.g. noise or touch – finding it difficult to work in a large noisy classroom or where others may be very close to the child
  • Emotional and behavioural difficulties
  • Attention difficulties

Many children have SEN but those difficulties are supported with timely intervention from teachers and other experts. It should not be assumed that a child making slower progress than expected has SEN. However, some children receive additional support over time and still fail to make progress. These children may need additional provision that can be provided via an Education, Health & Care Plan.

If you have concerns about your child’s education following a brain injury, Brain Injury Group have specialist education lawyers who can assist.

Produced by Laxmi Patel, head of Boyes Turner’s Education team

This article was written for us by Laxmi Patel who leads Boyes Turner’s leading Education team. An expert in special educational needs, Laxmi works closely with parents, schools, local authorities and case managers to ensure that children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities receive the support they need to achieve their potential in their education.

Boyes Turner is a Reading based full service law firm with a dedicated Education team who help families get the extra help and support they require for their children with special educational needs and disabilities.

What is the Brain Injury Group?

The Brain Injury Group exists to support individuals and families affected by brain injury and the health and social care professionals working in this specialist field. Our mission is to provide anyone affected by brain injury with access to advice on legal, financial and welfare benefit issues delivered by proven experts in the field who have been chosen not only for their skills and knowledge, but also for their passion and dedication to helping people.

How can Brain Injury Group help you?

If you’ve been affected by brain injury and need free legal, welfare or education advice, our specialist team can assist. You can find full details of Brain Injury Group member firms on our website or there are several ways to get in touch:

  1. Call us on 0800 612 9660 or 03303 112541
  2. Email us at
  3. Complete this short enquiry form and we’ll get back to you
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