Identifying SEND in the early years

Some disabilities are identified at birth or even during pregnancy. If your child has a significant and complex need along with a learning disability, the Portage Team will often become involved at a very early stage to provide support and advice for you and your child at home. Many other needs, however, do not become apparent until the child is older. Parents are often the first to notice that their child’s development is not following a typical path – for example, when their child is not crawling, talking or walking at the age when children normally develop these skills.

If you have any concerns about your child’s development, you should speak to your health visitor, GP, or childcare provider. Some services, like the Speech and Language Therapy Service, also run drop-in clinics at Family Centres where you can speak to a professional without needing a referral or appointment. You can also call the 0-5 SEND phoneline for advice on 0114 2037773. This is available term time only Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 1-4pm.

Routine assessments

There are a number of routine assessments that are carried out at specific stages in a child’s life. These are listed below.

Please note: You don’t have to wait for an assessment to raise concerns. If you are at all concerned about your child’s development, speak to your GP, health visitor or childcare provider.

This review is carried out by a health visitor in your home. They will assess your baby’s growth and development and can give you advice on feeding, vaccinations, keeping your baby safe and early bonding.

This assessment is carried out by a health visitor. They will assess your baby’s growth and development and give you advice on things like feeding, immunisations and sleep. A routine postnatal depression questionnaire is also completed at this contact. The health visitor can arrange for extra help or visits if needed.

Carried out by a member of the Health Visiting Team, this review looks at your child’s development, growth and vaccinations. You will be sent a questionnaire, known as the Ages and Stages Questionnaire, to fill in before the review. The health visitor can refer your child to other services (such as audiology or speech and language therapy) if required.

Carried out by a member of the Health Visiting Team, this review presents an opportunity for you to discuss how your child is developing and flag any developmental issues. You will be sent a questionnaire, known as the Ages and Stages Questionnaire, to fill in before the review. The health visitor can refer your child to other services (such as audiology or speech and language therapy) if required.

Your child will only have this check if they attend an early years setting (like a nursery or a childminder). It must be carried out by all childcare providers, using a national framework called the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). The childcare provider must give you a short written summary of your child’s development in a number of areas. If there are any concerns about your child’s development, the nursery or childminder will develop a targeted plan to support your child's future learning and development. They may also involve other professionals or refer your child for a Two Year Integrated Review (see below). If a child has very low scores on their EYFS check but no referral is made, the local authority will contact the childcare provider to find out why.

If your child attends an Early Years setting and their health visitor and/or the setting has identified concerns, your child may be offered a Two Year Integrated Review. This review involves a face-to-face meeting between the parents, the health visitor, and the keyworker and the SENCO from the Early Years setting. There is no written report from the meeting, but the decisions should be recorded in your child’s nursery and health visiting record. Outcomes from this review could include a referral to a group to help to address a specific issue (such as attending a “Play and Say” group to support language development), support from an Early Years prevention worker, a referral to a group which supports parents, carers and children, or a referral to the 0–5 SEND Team who can work with children with complex or ongoing needs. They will work with your child’s setting to plan the best ways to support your child and his development and can support transitions into school.

Please note: The purpose of the Two Year Integrated Review is to ensure that all agencies involved with the child are aware of any additional needs. If a child does not attend a setting, there is no need to hold this review. However, if a child is due to start nursery after the 2 to 2 ½ year review has been carried out by a health visitor, then the health visitor will ask parents for permission to share relevant information with the nursery. If necessary, a joint review can be carried out once the child is at nursery.

Getting help and support

Help and support is available to families through the Early Years Partnership. The Partnership is made up of a number of agencies who get together to identify the best support that can be offered to families based on their identified needs.

Parents can get support from an Early Years Prevention Worker, access groups and activities, referral to the 0–5 SEND Team or get help and advice to support their child.

Anyone can refer themselves to access help and support by contacting their local Family Centre. Health visitors, midwives, nurseries, childminders and GPs can also make referrals to get additional help and support for families. 

Getting ready for starting school

For children who need extra help to develop the skills they need for starting school, support can be provided through the Early Years School Readiness Transition Pathway. Families on this pathway are allocated a keyworker who coordinates the child’s package of support and makes sure that the right services are accessed at the right time.

The support will focus on the child having a great start to education. The school readiness pathway team aims to support children to be safe, settled and ready to learn. This includes engaging with their entitlement to learning in nursery, Foundation Stage 2 and beyond, having good attendance and accessing support for any special educational needs or disabilities. This support is coordinated via an Extended Support Plan/My Plan.

Specialist keyworkers will continue to coordinate this support until the end of Year 1. Children can be referred into to the School Readiness Pathway by any of the professionals working with them or their family. Parents who feel their child may benefit from this coordinated approach can speak to their childcare provider to request a referral through the Early Years Partnership.

Contact the 0-5 SEND Support Service who help with transition.  They have a dedicated phoneline opening on 20th March 2023 where you can speak to an Early Years Inclusion Teacher.  This will be operated Monday, Wednesday and Friday 1.00pm - 4.00pm during term time.

Children with the most complex SEND will receive transition support from their keyworker from the specialist teaching services such as Hearing Impaired, Visually Impaired or Autism and Social Communication teams.

For Health Professionals - Section 23: Notification to the local authority of a child 0 5-years-old with Special Educational Needs or Disability (SEND)

Click here to find out more information on how Health professionals make a referral to the Local Authority.