Published: 28 Mar 2023  |  Category: Healthcare, Mental Health  |  Stage: We have welcomed a family

Supporting Families with Special Educational Needs (SEN)

Refugee Children with Special Educational Needs (SEN)

Reset asked Dr Andia Papadopoulou, a Clinical Psychologist, to put together the below resources in order to provide some information about Special Educational Needs in the Community Sponsorship context. 

Refugee children like all children may have special needs of all kinds such as physical, neurodevelopmental, behavioural and learning needs and disabilities that require specialist professional input. It is therefore important that parents and carers of children and young people are helped and supported to access the right services for their children so that they can continue to confidently care for them. In many cases children may have arrived in the UK with known and already assessed special needs that their parents and carers are able to share with you, for example, a physical disability or a speech and language delay. In many other cases, and especially if the children are still quite young, special needs may not have been identified as yet.

However, as families become more settled, feeling safe and developing trusting relationships with you, they may start sharing their concerns about their children. They may for example express to you their worries about their child’s development, their behaviour, their learning or emotional wellbeing. It is important to connect with their worries, listen to their experience of their children and their concerns as they are the ones who know their children best. Validate their concerns and work together to access the services that their child may need. 

The first port of call for any concerns that a refuge family may have about their children is the family’s GP. Their GP will be able to assess the concerns, provide advice and guidance themselves and/or refer the children to a paediatrician (a doctor who specialises in treating children) or a specialist Child Development Team who can co-ordinate a range of services for pre-school children with more severe and complex needs that require the help of more than one expert.  For children under the age of 5 years and especially babies, you can also approach their Health Visitor (registered nurses/midwifes with additional health visiting training who provide proactive, universal and targeted services to all families with under 5s) who can visit the family, assess the child’s development and facilitate links with appropriate services.

Refugee children who attend nursery or school

Refuge children’s special educational needs are often under-recognised or mis-recognised. This is often due to lack of understanding of refugee children’s experiences of migration, especially in cases where there is significant trauma, and their impact on their developmental trajectory. Most importantly assessments can be complicated by language being a key barrier to communication. As a result they miss out on important support. It is important therefore that you are aware how to support refugee children and their parents/carers to access the services available to children with special education needs.

Every nursery and school in the UK has a Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO). This is someone with extra training in working with children with special needs. If refugee babies or children attend nursery and there are worries about their progress or behaviour, encourage and support their parents and carers to talk to the child’s SENCO or keyworker and who, if there are grounds for concern, can act promptly to start the process of early intervention.

Equally, If the children are older, attend school and there are concerns about their progress, behaviour or learning, then parents can approach the child’s class teacher and school SENCO who would be able to report on the child’s development and progress, advise on what is the right course of action and what services may offer further support.

Each Local Authority has a Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Information Advice and Support Service (SENDIASS) that parents, carers, professionals and young people can access to find out more about locally available support and services.

To find out more, please watch the following video: