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Special Educational Needs (SEN) Glossary

Seriously, ever since I started this journey with my children with ADHD I have come across so many acronyms. I’ll be honest. I would often just nod in some meetings because I was so overwhelmed by all the initials being thrown at me I thought WTF? And BRB (be right back!). Sometimes specialists and people working in a particular area forget that what is normal terminology for them is a “do what when?” to us parents.

So, I thought I would put together a Special Educational Needs glossary for parents to have at a glance. Please do send me more to add in as and when they are thrown at you!


AcademyA state-funded school which is directly financed by the Department of Education. They are self-governing and independent of control from the Local Authority
Annual ReviewReview of the EHCP, completed within the 12 months of making the plan and then on an annual basis.  An interim review will be held every six months for children in Early Years.
ADAttachment Disorder is a broad term which describes the consequences of failure to form normal attachments to parents or primary caregivers in early childhood.
ADDThe term is used for people who have difficulties with concentration like ADHD, but without hyperactivity or impulsiveness.
ADHDAttention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder, characterised by problems with attention, hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and difficulties with regulating emotions.
APAlternative Provision or setting that provides education for children when they cannot attend a mainstream school.
APDAuditory Processing Disorder is an umbrella term for a variety of disorders that affect the way the brain processes auditory information.
ASDAutism Spectrum Disorder covers a range of neurodevelopmental disorders including Autism and Asperger’s.  It is characterised by difficulties with social interaction, communication and restricted or repetitive behaviours or interests. The term Autism was changed to ASD in 2013 by the American Psychiatric Association.


BDDBody Dysmorphic Disorder is a mental disorder characterised by the obsessive idea that a part of one’s body is severely flawed and requires exceptional measures to hide or fix it.


Care PlanA record of health or social care services that are being provided to your child/ young person.
Cognitive AbilityThinking and Reasoning Abilities
CAMHSChild and Adolescent Mental Health Service is part of the NHS helping children and adolescents with social, emotional, and behavioural problems.
CBTCognitive Behavioural Therapy is an intervention used to challenge or change unhelpful thoughts or beliefs and aid an individual’s personal coping strategies.
CDConduct Disorder is a mental disorder which is diagnosed in childhood or teen years.  Conduct disorders are repetitive and persistent patterns of behaviour, where the young person behaves in ways which go against social norms and that are not in line with normal behaviours for the age of the child.


DCDDevelopmental Coordination Disorder, also known as dyspraxia, is a condition affecting physical coordination. It causes a child to perform less well than expected in daily activities for their age and appear to move clumsily.
DfeDepartment of Education
Development DelayA delay in reaching the normal stages of development, e.g., sitting, walking, talking
Differentiated CurriculumAdapting teaching methods, considering that children progress at different rates, utilising a range of resources and learning styles tailored to a child or group
DLADisability Living Allowance is a benefit that can be claimed by the family of a child with special needs.
DoHDepartment of Health
DSADisability Students Allowance.  Most UK undergraduate or taught postgraduate students with a disability are eligible for this monetary allowance to help cover some of the extra costs that may be incurred due to their disability.
DyscalculiaA specific and persistent difficulty in understanding numbers. 
DyslexiaA specific learning disability that affects reading and writing skills and therefore impacts other areas of learning too.
DysgraphiaA specific learning difficulty that affects written expression such as spelling, grammar and organising thoughts on paper, but is not associated with the ability to read.


EBSAEmotionally Based School Avoidance.  Used to describe children/young people who experience significant difficulties in attending school because of emotional factors.
EHCPA legal document showing all the details of the education, health and social care support that is to be provided for your child/young person with SEN or disability by your Local Authority. It is for children, sometimes up to 25 years old, whose SEN needs, or disabilities impact their education.
ELSAEmotional Literacy Support Assistant.  Designed to support the emotional needs of the student.
EOTASEducation Other Than at School, or home education
EYFSEarly Years Foundation Stage, from the age of 3 until the end of the reception year.


FASDFoetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder.  A lifelong, neurodevelopmental condition that results from prenatal exposure to alcohol affecting the brain and the body.
Fine Motor SkillsSmall movements of the body e.g., holding a pencil, gripping, buttons, threading, picking something up
First Tier TribunalResponsible for handling appeals against the Local Authorities’ decision regarding a child’s Special Educational Needs.


GDDGlobal Delay Development is an umbrella term for a general delay in acquiring normal developmental milestones
Gross Motor SkillsWhole body actions e.g., running, swimming, bike riding
GADGeneralised Anxiety Disorder, is characterised by excessive, uncontrollable, often irrational worries about a thing or event and interferes with a person’s everyday life.


HyperactivityDifficulty in concentrating, sitting still for any length of time, restless, fidgety and can also have sleeping difficulties
HypermobilityThe ability to move joints with an increased range of motion


IEPIndividual Education Plans are designed for children with SEN to help them in school, building on their curriculum to apply strategies to meet their specific needs.


LALocal Authority, responsible for providing education and EHCPs.
LACLooked After Children.  This term typically denotes children cared for by Government, though exact definitions vary between the four nations. More than 93,000 children in the UK are in care, 70,000 in England.  Most are taken into care over fears of abuse.
LDLearning Disability.  Learning disabilities or learning disorders are umbrella terms for a wide variety of learning problems.
 LEALocal Education Authorities are local councils in England and Wales that are responsible for their area, district/county.
Learning DifficultiesEducational abilities that are significantly lower than children of a similar age, e.g., reading, numeracy
Literacy Skills  Reading, writing, and spelling ability
Local OfferLAs are required to publish a ‘local offer’. This is intended to provide info about provisions it expects to be available to children with SEN and disabilities, in their area both in and outside of school.
LSALearning Support Assistants, usually work with students who have special needs, or don’t speak English to help them cope with the classroom environment. 


Maintained SchoolSchools in England that are maintained by the LA, including special schools
MakatonA unique language programme that uses symbols, signs, and speech to enable people to communicate, when they cannot communicate efficiently by speaking. It supports the development of essential communication skills such as attention and listening, comprehension, memory, recall and organisation of language and expression.
Mediation (for EHCP)Mediation is run and facilitated by an independent third party. It enables you and the LA to discuss, in an informal and confidential setting, any aspects of the LA’s decision and/or the contents of an EHC plan, including the health and social care sections
MLDModerate Learning Difficulty children will have difficulty accessing the normal curriculum even with additional support.  They have a general developmental delay which may present as immaturity and inability to mix with their peer group.
Modified CurriculumChanging the National Curriculum in some way to meet the child or young person’s individual needs.


NeurodivergentA person with a mental or neurological function that differs from a neurotypical person.
NeurodiversityThe range of differences in individual brain function and behavioural traits.


OCDObsessive Compulsive Disorder is a mental disorder where the individual feels the need to perform certain rituals or routines (compulsions) or has repeated thoughts or obsessions which impact their daily life negatively.
ODDOppositional Defiance Disorder is a disorder where children have disruptive and oppositional behaviour that is particularly directed towards authority figures, such as parents or teachers.  ODD is less severe and more common than conduct disorder.  Children with ODD are constantly defiant, hostile, and disobedient.
OFSTEDOffice for Standards in Education.  An inspection team that visits and inspects schools and Local Authorities
OTOccupation Therapists are health care professionals.  They work with people of all ages and can look at all aspects of daily life in your home, school, or workplace. They look at activities you find difficult and see if there’s another way you can do them.


PDAPathological Demand Avoidance is a profile that describes those whose main characteristic is to avoid everyday demands and expectations to an extreme extent. 
PDDPervasive Developmental Disorder.  The diagnostic category of pervasive developmental disorders refers to a group of disorders characterised by delays in the development of socialisation and communication skills. Parents may note symptoms as early as infancy, although the typical age of onset is before three years of age.
Personal BudgetA personal budget is an identified amount of funding that the Local Authority can give to a child/young person’s parent(s) to ensure a particular provision that is specified in the Education, Health and Care Plan is upheld.
PRUPupil Referral Unit is an alternative education provision, specifically organised to provide education for children who are not able to attend for several reasons. These include neurodiverse learning styles which make it challenging for the pupil to engage in mainstream school.
PSPPastoral Support Plan is designed to support any pupil for whom the normal.  school-based strategies have not been effective.  It is a structured, coordinated, 16-week school intervention designed to support pupils at risk of permanent exclusion.
PTSDPost-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.


Reasonable AdjustmentsChanges that a school and other settings are required by law to ensure a child with a disability is not discriminated against.
Receptive LanguageThe ability to understand what is being said.


SALTSpeech and Language Therapists provide treatment, support and care for children, and adults, who have difficulties with communication, or with eating, drinking, and swallowing. Speech and language therapists (SLTs) work with parents, carers, and other professionals, such as teachers, nurses, occupational therapists, and doctors.
SEMHSocial, Emotional and Mental Health difficulties, “Children and young people may experience a wide range of social and emotional difficulties which manifest themselves in many ways.  These may include becoming withdrawn…., disruptive or disturbing behaviour.” (SEND code of practice).
Special Educational Needs or SEND Special Educational Needs and Disabilities.  Special education is the practice of educating students in a way that accommodates their individual differences, disabilities, and special needs.
SENDCOThe teacher responsible for Special Educational Needs and Disabilities within the school.
SENDIASSSEND information, advice and support services that offer impartial advice for Parents and Carers
SFDSchool Focused Plan is for children without an EHCP in school, outlining what the school is doing to support that child. 
SLDSevere Learning Difficulties are significant and severe issues in learning across the whole curriculum and wider life skills.
SPDSensory Processing Disorder is a condition that affects how your brain processes sensory information (stimuli).  Sensory information includes things you see, hear, smell, taste, or touch. SPD can affect all the senses, or just one
SPLDSpecific Learning Difficulty.  A specific learning difficulty means that someone has a difference or difficulty with one or more certain parts of learning. 


Working MemoryA term used to refer to the ability to hold and use information in the brain over short periods of time.  Information is not ‘stored’.


Young CarerA young carer is someone aged 25 and under who cares for a friend or family member who, due to illness, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction, cannot cope without their support. 

I really hope this SEN glossary helps. There are so many more initials and jargon words out there, so please do send me any to add. This is definitely a work in progress and we’re all here to help each other on this journey!

I have started a private support group on Facebook for parents and carers who need support with their child with ADHD. It’s a friendly place to chat with others. Please do click this link ADHDinchildren to join. And for anyone on Instagram, I’m there too ADHD Mum.

Vicki x

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Bobbie

    What an education Vicky, reading this over my morning coffee certainly taught me a thing or two!

    1. Victoria Page

      I wish certain others would feel the same! Apparently ADHD is now a hoax 🙂 x

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