Identifying health needs

For children with complex needs identified at birth, after an injury or illness, or through their early years, you will likely have health professionals already working with you. They will let you know if they believe your child has Special Educational Needs, and can also guide you to other sources of support and information.

Health professionals have a duty to notify the local authority when they identify a child under compulsory school age as having (or probably having) SEN or a disability.

However,  you may be the person who notices differences around development or behaviour; this can sometimes happen when a child starts nursery or school.

You can talk to your child’s keyworker or teacher about your observations, discuss what support might be needed, and decide next steps together.

You can also see your child’s GP, and together you might talk about whether to make a referral to a specialist service or paediatrician.

See also SEN Support which explains the cycle of support in schools, ‘assess, plan, do review.’ 

If your child continues to make less than expected progress, the setting may talk to you about a referral to a specialist health service, such as a school nurse, an educational psychologist or a speech and language therapist. Settings can make a referral into some health services, but not all; the Local Offer will give you information about services and how to access them.

Further information

Read more about specific conditions on the NHS Health A-Z

Take a look at the Council for Disabled Children factsheet ‘Levels of care in the NHS (PDF)’

Look at the information from Contact (for families with disabled children), including factsheets about diagnosis. 

If a setting, the local authority or health professional are unsure about how to support your child, they may suggest that you consent to a referral to a specialist service for advice, so they can better understand your child’s needs.

You should be given the opportunity to speak with or meet any specialist who sees your child. They will explain their role, any observations or assessments they will carry out, and what will happen next.