Support for children with SEND in early years

To support your child in their early years setting (for example nurseries, pre-schools and childminders) the provider must follow the early years foundation stage (EYFS).

The EYFS is a national framework which sets the standard for learning development and care for children from birth to the end of reception year at school. Written assessments are given to parents when a child is 2 years old and when they reach the end of reception year.

If you have concerns about your child, the first step is to talk to your child’s keyperson and ask whether they share your concerns and what the education setting can do to help.

Childcare providers are trained and follow advice and guidance to help all children they look after to develop. There are lots of different ways they can play with and help your child to learn, so they will try and find methods that work best for them. Those working with your child will be given a booklet called Best Practice Guidance to make sure your child's needs are met, alternatively you can read a family guide to the Best Practice Guidance (PDF, 808.5 KB).

Ages 2 to 3 years old

When your child is between 2 and 3, a review must take place to track their progress. A document will be provided summarising your child’s strengths and highlight any areas where development is not as expected. Your childcare provider will discuss this with you and put support in place if this is needed.

At this time your health visitor will also invite you to attend an appointment to check their physical development milestones as part of the Healthy Child Programme (health and development review). A health visitor as part of the Health Visiting Service will contact you if they have any concerns.

If concerns are identified at either review, you may be offered the opportunity to attend an integrated review at two meeting. This meeting allows both review processes to be brought together.

The review will be at your child's early years setting so they can be observed playing in a familiar environment. You will be given the opportunity to discuss their strengths and needs with their early years keyperson and health visitor. After the discussion a joint decision can be made about any further actions or referrals to additional services that would benefit your child.

Additional support

If necessary, your child’s early years provider will put extra help in place for your child and come up with a plan with you. They must follow the national requirements set out in the SEND code of practice.

  • Your child’s current needs will be assessed, and a targeted plan made to support their next steps in development.
  • The plan will be put in place, usually for a few weeks, before being reviewed to see how effective it has been with helping your child to make progress.
  • The process will continue for as long as your child needs the extra help. You should be fully involved with the discussions about your child’s needs, the support which is put in place for them and any reviews.
  • The review of the plan will help identify if your child is progressing and if the support needs to change. If it does, a personalised plan will be written with you. A personalised plan could, for example, include speech therapy or physiotherapy targets.
  • If your child’s early years provider feels your child needs help from other early years professionals they will talk to you about their concerns and discuss how to access further specialist support.

Specialist support

If an early years provider feel they can’t meet all your child’s needs, they may ask for advice at the Local Inclusion Forum Team (LIFT). You’ll be asked for consent before your child is discussed at a LIFT meeting.

LIFT is a group of specialists and practitioners from other early years settings. The aim of the group is to find solutions and offer advice, they will look at your child's strengths and the difficulties they face and see how they can help.

A LIFT meeting has various outcomes, examples include:

  • advice, support and ideas from the discussion at the meeting to take back and try
  • a recommendation to seek specialist interventions (for example from a specialist teacher or speech therapist)
  • a referral to Portage (educational support for children with SEND).

Read our leaflets for more information about LIFT:

Your child may also be referred to the Specialist Teaching and Learning Services (STLS) via the LIFT team for any sensory, physical disability and/or complex need support.

Significant support

The early years provider and people working with you and your child may suggest you ask for a formal assessment of their learning needs.

This involves looking in detail at your child’s needs, the extra support which has already been put in place and identifying extra support they may need. This may result in an education, health and care (EHC) plan.

Additional resource funding

If your child's early years provider thinks they will need additional resources to provide the recommended support they can apply to us for a special educational needs inclusion fund (SENIF).

Parent support

As well as the support that is given by your child's early years provider, you can also contact the following support networks to help you during your child's early years:

Alternatively, if you are looking for early years support when moving your child into a primary school you can read our helpful support guide for parents.