a mixed diverse classroom depiticing the spectrum of students

SEN Population: Exploring 16 Types of SEND in Schools

Reading Time: 6 minutes

In 2021, England was home to about 10.9 million schoolchildren and full-time students, which accounted for roughly 20.4% of the population aged five and older. This group included learners at all educational levels, from primary school up through university. The next time you drive on a school half term and think the roads seem clear, now you know why, at least 20% of the population is not moving.

Speaking of higher education, during the 2021/22 academic year, there were 2.86 million students enrolled in higher education across the UK, including those from England and students from abroad.

These numbers give us a snapshot of how many young people are in school or college in England, though it’s worth noting that these figures can shift slightly each year. Changes in the population, education policies, and broader social and economic conditions can all influence these statistics. Additionally, these numbers don’t capture those engaged in less formal educational pursuits, such as online courses or self-study programs.

Neurotypical and Neurodiverse

In schools, the mix of neurotypical students and those with Special Educational Needs (SEN), including both diagnosed and undiagnosed cases, can differ greatly depending on various factors like location and community demographics. To give you a clearer picture, here are some general numbers:

  • Neurotypical students are those whose cognitive functions align with what is considered typical or standard within society. These students make up the majority of schools.
  • In England, over 1.5 million pupils are recognized as having SEN, showing an increase of 87,000 from the previous year.
  • The proportion of students with an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan, which provides more tailored support, has risen to 4.3% from 4.0%.
  • Additionally, 13.0% of pupils receive some form of SEN support, despite not having an EHC plan, up from 12.6%.

These figures suggest that while the majority of school students are neurotypical, a notable number have identified special educational needs. It’s important to consider that there are also likely to be students with undiagnosed SEN, which could affect these distributions.

Typically, the distribution of neurotypical and SEN students would follow a bell curve, with most students falling into the neurotypical category and smaller numbers categorized under SEN at each end. However, this can vary based on diagnosis criteria, available support resources, and the specific group of students being considered.

Remember, these are just broad trends, and the actual situation can vary from one school to another. Each student is unique and may need different types of support, regardless of their specific diagnosis.

16 Special Education Needs

Learning Disabilities: Children with learning disabilities may have difficulties in acquiring specific skills, such as reading, writing, or math. This can significantly impact their academic progress and may require specialized interventions and support.

Communication Disorders: Children diagnosed with communication disorders face significant challenges in speech and language development. These difficulties impair their ability to express thoughts, needs, and feelings effectively. Moreover, understanding verbal communication from others becomes a hurdle, which can significantly affect their academic progress and social interactions. Early intervention with speech therapy and personalized learning strategies can help mitigate these issues, enabling these children to improve their communication skills and social interactions.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): ADHD is a common neurodevelopmental disorder identified by persistent patterns of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Children with ADHD often find it difficult to stay focused, follow detailed instructions, and manage their emotions and actions. This can lead to challenges in organizing tasks, maintaining friendships, and excelling academically. Tailored educational plans, behavioural strategies, and, in some cases, medication can help manage symptoms and enhance the child’s ability to learn and interact socially.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): Autism Spectrum Disorder encompasses a range of conditions that affect a child’s social skills, communication, and behaviour. Children with ASD might struggle with interpreting social cues and emotions, which can make social interactions and forming friendships challenging. They may also exhibit repetitive behaviours and have highly specific interests. Schools can support these children by providing structured learning environments, social skills training, and therapies tailored to each child’s unique needs.

Emotional and Behavioral Disorders: Children with emotional and behavioural disorders often display behaviours that can be perceived as disruptive, such as aggression, persistent defiance, and social withdrawal. These behaviours are symptomatic of underlying emotional distress and can impede the learning process and social relationships. Effective intervention plans including counseling, behavior management programs, and supportive educational environments are crucial in helping these children achieve their potential and maintain positive interactions with peers and adults.

Physical Disabilities: Students with physical disabilities may experience difficulties with mobility or other physical activities due to congenital conditions, injury, or illness. These disabilities can restrict their participation in standard educational activities without accommodations. Schools play a critical role by providing accessible learning spaces, adaptive technology, and personalized support to ensure these students can participate fully in all school activities.

Sensory Processing Disorders: Sensory processing disorders involve atypical responses to sensory stimuli — children might overreact or underreact to touch, sounds, or lights, which can be overwhelming or barely noticeable to them. This can make common classroom environments challenging and hinder their academic and social development. Customized sensory integration therapies and modifications in classroom settings, such as reduced noise levels or modified lighting, can significantly improve their comfort and engagement.

Specific Learning Difficulties: Children with specific learning difficulties, such as dyslexia or dyscalculia, exhibit challenges in particular areas of learning despite having average or above-average intelligence. For instance, dyslexia primarily affects reading and writing skills, while dyscalculia impacts understanding numbers and mathematical concepts. These students benefit from specialized teaching techniques, the use of technology aids, and additional time for tests and assignments, which can help them overcome their learning obstacles and succeed academically.

Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), also known as Dyspraxia: DCD is characterized by difficulties with fine and gross motor skills, affecting a child’s ability to plan and execute coordinated movements. This condition can make everyday activities like writing, buttoning clothes, or participating in sports challenging. In academic settings, these children may struggle with tasks that require hand-eye coordination, such as writing or using scissors. Schools can support these students by providing occupational therapy to improve motor skills, alongside adaptations in the classroom to accommodate their specific needs, such as using keyboarding instead of handwriting and allowing extra time for assignments.

Giftedness: While not considered a disability, gifted and talented students have advanced cognitive abilities and learn at a faster pace than their peers. These students often require a differentiated curriculum that challenges them and keeps them engaged. Without appropriate intellectual stimulation, they may become disinterested and underperform. Educational strategies for gifted students include enriched learning experiences, acceleration in specific subjects, and opportunities for independent study and creative projects to maintain their motivation and help them achieve their full potential.

Hearing Impairment: Children with hearing impairments may experience significant challenges in communication and learning, as they cannot rely fully on auditory cues. This can affect not only their ability to interact with peers and teachers but also their overall academic performance. Schools can assist these students by using assistive listening devices, providing written transcripts of lessons, and employing sign language interpreters or special educators trained in deaf education. Creating a supportive learning environment that accommodates their needs is crucial for their educational success.

Visual Impairment: Students with visual impairments range from those with partial vision loss to those who are completely blind. These children require specific adaptations to fully access the educational curriculum. Educational support can include the use of tactile and auditory learning materials, Braille textbooks, large print materials, and digital resources that are accessible. Orientation and mobility training may also be provided to help them navigate their environments more effectively. Schools need to provide these adaptations to ensure that students with visual impairments have equal educational opportunities.

Intellectual Disabilities: Students with intellectual disabilities exhibit significant limitations in both intellectual functioning and adaptive behaviour, which covers a range of everyday social and practical skills. These disabilities originate before the age of 18. Schools can support these students through personalized learning plans, life skills training, and integration into mainstream classes with appropriate support.

Language Disorders: While some aspects of communication disorders were covered earlier, specific language disorders, including expressive and receptive language disorders, represent a subset where students have difficulty understanding others (receptive) or sharing thoughts, ideas, and feelings completely (expressive). Interventions might include speech and language therapy and modifications to communication methods in the classroom.

Emotional Disturbance: This category includes several diagnoses such as anxiety disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and others that can significantly impact a student’s educational performance. Affected students might exhibit a variety of symptoms from emotional withdrawal to aggressive behaviour. Tailored psychological support and educational adjustments are essential for managing their educational journey.

Multiple Disabilities: Some students may have more than one condition affecting their physical, cognitive, or sensory abilities. Schools need to provide highly personalized support that addresses multiple aspects of a student’s developmental needs, often involving multidisciplinary teams.


Statistics, Neurotypicals, Sen population, % of the population with Sen no EHCP, Student Population 2021

    Please add your thoughts

    0 0 votes
    Article Rating
    Notify of
    Inline Feedbacks
    View all comments
    Share the Post:

    Related Posts

    Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
    Scroll to Top

    Have a Question to Ask?

    Enquiry Face to Face (1-to-1) Therapy

    Enquiry Online (1-to-1) Therapy

    A Popup thumb market just for decoration

    Submit your Story to EHCPARENT Voices

    Join Our Newsletter

    Subscribe to receive our latest blog posts directly in your inbox!