Special needs service provision: who's does what?


Paediatrician with baby

Otherwise known as making sense of the sea of acronyms. If we've left anyone out of our who's who, please let us know and we'll add them to the list

Additional needs coordinator, also known as special educational needs coordinator (SENCO) - responsible for delivering the most appropriate education for children with special educational needs and managing the SEN assessment and administration.

Advocate - an independent paid or voluntary worker who can help you to access information, attend meetings with you, write letters and/or speak on your behalf. Many professionals have advocacy as part of their role, eg nurses, social workers, speech and language therapists, but if their advocacy role conflicts with their professional role they should recommend another advocate who can help you.

Clinical psychologist - health professional who helps children who have specific problems with learning or behaviour difficulties. Can address psychological factors that may be exacerbating or underlying behavioural issues, eg anxiety, and provide help when a child with special needs experiences circumstances such as a difficult school environment or traumatic life events, eg bereavement.

3). trying to address the behavioural issues without considering psycholgical factors can make the situation much worse

4). Parents, teachers and other professionals may not be aware that there is a resource avaliable when a SN child experiences trauma or bereavement etc clinical psychologists provide this

5). parents and scholls may not be aware that a clinical psyhologist can intervene on behalf of the child to make the school environment less anxiety-provoking for an SN child and help them manage their day

Communication support worker - works alongside teachers to provide sign language support for young deaf children in nursery or school.

Dietician - health professional who gives advice about nutrition and swallowing or feeding difficulties.

Educational psychologist  - helps children who are experiencing problems at school. Can advise about school placement and your child getting the right support at school.

Our special needs webguide has links to heaps of useful organisations

Geneticist - may be involved in diagnosis, and a genetic counsellor may be involved if you're planning any more children.

Habilitation specialist - practitioners may still be called mobility officers; O&M instructors; education, children's or paediatric mobility officers; or mobility and independence specialists. They work within local authorities/charities or freelance to teach mobility and independence skills to children and young people with visual impairments.

Key worker - coordinates services from different areas, including health, education and social services. Can act as a central point of contact for professionals working with your family, and ensure information about your child is shared where necessary.

  • A 'non-designated' key worker is someone already working with a family, in another role, who takes on the responsibilities of a key worker in addition to any other help or therapy they provide.
  • 'Designated' key workers are employed mainly to coordinate information and support for families. They do not normally provide specialised care themselves.

Learning disability nurse - specialist nurse who works with children and adults with a learning disability and their families. Can help you to find services for your child.

Learning support assistant / teaching assistant - works alongside teachers and supports individual children or small groups to help them learn and take part in activities in schools or nurseries.

Named officer - contact person at your local authority if it issues a statement of special educational needs (SEN) for your child.

Occupational therapist - assesses and treats physical conditions to help your child with independent movement and related life-skills.

Orthopaedist - helps treat children's musculo-skeletal problems and advises on special footwear and/or splints.

Paediatric occupational therapist - helps children who have difficulties with everyday activities, such as sitting, holding cutlery or drinking from a cup. Assesses for and advises on specialist equipment that might help your child, and advises on lifting and handling your child safely.

Paediatrician - doctor who specialises in working with babies and children. Often the first point of contact for families of children with special needs. May diagnose your child's condition and refer you to specialist services.

Paediatric neurologist - doctor who specialises in how the brain works in very young children.

Physiotherapist - assesses and manages children with movement disorders, disability or illness and helps them to reach their full potential.

Portage visitor - provides a home-visiting service for pre-school children with special needs to assess and develop their skills.

QTVI (qualified teacher of the visually impaired) - provides specialist help for children with visual impairments.

SALT (speech and language therapist) - provides expert advice and help with your child's speech development, including eating and swallowing, pre-language communication and alternative communication.

SENCO (special educational needs coordinator) - responsible for delivering the most appropriate education for children with special educational needs and managing the SEN assessment and administration.

Social workers - can be involved in helping with respite care and supporting families of children with special needs.

Specialist teachers - work with children who have speech, language and communication difficulties to help with school work, liase with therapists and psychologists, and offer support and advice on specific difficulties. 

Last updated: about 3 years ago