Research by Adoption UK shows that adopted children are more likely to have special educational needs (SEN) than their classmates.

IPSEA supports children and young people in England with all kinds of SEN, including those who have been adopted. This blog explains what support your child’s setting should give, what help your local authority (LA) should give, and what you can do if this is not put in place.

If you live outside England, the law is different. If you live in Wales, Northern Ireland, or Scotland, please click on the links to find out more.

Does my child have SEN?

Compared to their classmates, adopted children are more likely to have social, emotional, and mental heath needs and developmental and neurological conditions. They may also have other needs, and all these can impact on their learning.

Important statutory guidance called the SEND Code of Practice sets out 4 broad areas of needs:

  • social, emotional, and mental health needs (for example attachment difficulties, anxiety, or depression)
  • communication and interaction needs (for example finding social interaction difficult)
  • cognition and learning needs (for example difficulties with focus or dyslexia), and
  • sensory and/ or physical needs (for example sensory processing difficulties or hearing impairments).

Developmental trauma, for example, can lead to a child facing barriers to learning across all 4 areas of need, and maybe more (such as independence).

Families are often told they can’t access support because their child doesn’t have a formal diagnosis. This is a myth. Your child does not need a diagnosis for support to be put in place.

So, what support is your child legally entitled to?

Support from nursery, school or college

Mainstream nurseries, schools and colleges have a range of legal duties to support their pupils with SEN.

If your child or young person has SEN, goes to a mainstream setting and doesn’t have an EHC plan (more details below), they should be supported from the setting’s own resources.

This additional support is called SEN Support, and the setting must do everything that could reasonably be expected of them to support your child’s SEN.

If your child or young person is not receiving this support, you can take action. You can raise your concerns with school. You may also want to ask for an EHC needs assessment.

Support from your LA

If nursery, school or college doesn’t fully understand your child’s needs or isn’t able (or willing) to put the right support in place, you can ask for an EHC needs assessment. You can do this at any time and we have a template letter you can use.

An EHC needs assessment involves a wide range of professionals providing information on needs, support, and expected outcomes. It is the first step in getting an EHC plan, an important document which gives a number of legal rights.

Your LA must follow the law when deciding whether to agree to your request. If it says no, you can mediate and/ or appeal this decision in the SEND Tribunal. If it says yes, your LA must follow a legal process when carrying out the assessment.

After the assessment your LA will decide whether an EHC plan is necessary. If your LA says no to an EHC plan, you can mediate and/ or appeal this decision in the SEND Tribunal.

If your LA agrees an EHC plan is necessary, first it will provide you with a draft plan. This is a really important stage. You will have at least 15 days to comment on the draft, ask for a particular setting to be named in the plan, and request the LA attends a meeting to discuss the plan.

A final EHC plan must be sent to you within 20 weeks of the EHC needs assessment request. Once the plan has been issued, the:

  • support must be put in place straight away. If it is not, you can take action.
  • named setting must admit your child (unless it is a fee-paying, private school).
  • contents can be mediated and/ or appealed if you are not happy with what the plan says.

Further information

If you need help on any of the topics raised in this blog, please get in touch.

Our website also contains information on a wide range of SEN-related topics including school anxiety, transport, exclusions, disability discrimination, and much more.