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Jargon buster

We can sometimes use words, phrases and abbreviations that parents, carers and young people can find difficult to understand.

Click on the letters below to see some of the words, phrases and abbreviations you might come across.


Academy – a publicly funded school which operates outside of local authority control. The government describes them as independent state-funded schools. Academies have more freedom than other state schools over their finances, the curriculum, and teachers' pay and conditions.

Advice - written reports from parents, teachers and other professionals on a pupil’s special educational needs.

Advocate - an advocate can help you to think about choices and options, to find out information and to make your views known. Advocates are independent and impartial, they will not give you opinions or make judgments. 

Alternative learning provision (ALPS) - Education arranged by the local authority for pupils who, because of exclusion, illness or other reasons, would not otherwise receive suitable education

Annual Review – a meeting that takes place at least once a year to look at the details of a child's Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) and to record the child's progress and plan for the year ahead.

Assessment – finding out what a child can and cannot do by observing them at school and sometimes at home and by talking with people who know the child well.

ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder. See Autism

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) - a behavioural disorder that includes symptoms such as inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. Read more about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) on the NHS website

Autism - is a lifelong condition that affects how people communicate and interact with others. Read more about Autism on the NHS website

Audiologist - a health professional who specialises in identifying and treating hearing and balance disorders.


Behaviour Emotional and Social Difficulties (BESD) - where a child's emotions or behavior are barriers to their learning. See Social, emotional and mental health difficulties (SEMH)

Blue badge – helps you park closer to your destination if you or your passenger are disabled.

British Sign Language (BSL) - a visual means of communicating using gestures, facial expression, and body language. Sign Language is used mainly by people who are Deaf or have hearing impairments.


CAMHS - Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services. These services assess and treat children and young people up to the age of 17 with emotional, behavioural or mental health difficulties.

Care plan - A record of the health and/or social care services being provided to a child or young person.

Child Development Clinic - where medical assessments are made of children whose development is giving cause for concern.

Children and Families Act 2014 - an Act which changes legislation to ensure children and young people with special education needs get the services and support they need.

Children’s Disability Register – a register of children with disabilities, special or additional needs in a local authority. Used to help plan services to meet the needs of children with disabilities and their families.

Code of Practice (CoP) - the Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice 2015. A document designed to help families, schools, local authorities and other organisations make effective decisions regarding children with special educational needs (SEN).

Common Assessment Framework (CAF) – a way of co-ordinating all the teams working for children and families. It includes the parent(s), school and any other professionals involved.

Conduct disorders - the most common type of mental and behavioural problem in children and young people. They are characterised by repeated and persistent patterns of antisocial, aggressive or defiant behaviour, much worse than would normally be expected in a child of that age.

Co-production – where children, young people and their parents/carers work together as equal partners with professionals from the local authority, health and social care to decide the outcomes they want and agree how these can best be achieved.

CYP - Children and Young People


Day Nursery - childcare and early year’s education for children from birth to pre-school 5 year olds. They are regularly inspected by Ofsted and offer a wide range of activities and combine both care and early year’s education.

Developmental delay - A delay in reaching normal development milestones, for example talking and walking.

Developmental co-ordination disorder (dyspraxia) - is a condition affecting physical co-ordination that causes a child to perform less well than expected in daily activities for his or her age, and appear to move clumsily.  Read more about Developmental co-ordination disorder (dyspraxia) on the NHS website.

DfE - Department for Education. The government department that is responsible for education and children's services in England.

Disabled Student Allowance (DSA) - an allowance for undergraduate or post-graduate students who have a disability or long-term health condition, mental health condition or specific learning difficulty such as dyslexia or dyspraxia which affects their ability to study. It can be used to pay for things such as special equipment, a note taker or transport costs.

Direct Payments - payments that allow you to choose and buy the services you need yourself, instead of getting them from the council.

Disagreement Resolution - Local authorities must provide access to independent disagreement resolution to help parents and young people resolve disputes with local authorities, schools and other settings about Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) duties and provision.

Disability Access Funding (DAF) - Three and four-year-old children who are in receipt of child Disability Living Allowance and are receiving the free entitlement are eligible for the Disability Access Fund (DAF). The funding is available to help childcare providers make reasonable adjustments at their setting to improve children's access to free early education.

Disability Living Allowance (DLA) – may help with the extra costs of looking after a child who is under 16 and has difficulties walking or needs much more looking after than a child of the same age who does not have a disability.

Dysarthria (difficulty speaking) - is difficulty speaking caused by brain damage or brain changes later in life. Read more about Dysarthria (difficulty speaking) on the NHS website.

Dyscalculia - a difficulty understanding maths concepts and symbols.

Dyslexia - common learning difficulty that can cause problems with reading, writing and spelling. Read more about Dyslexia on the NHS website.

Dysphagia (swallowing problems) - the medical term for swallowing difficulties. Read more about Dysphagia (swallowing problems) on the NHS website. 

Dyspraxiasee Developmental co-ordination disorder

Dystonia - uncontrolled and sometimes painful muscle movements (spasms). Read more about Dystonia on the NHS website.


Early Years Provider - a provider of early education places for children under five. This can include state funded and private nurseries, registered childminders and preschool playgroups.

Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) – a set of standards for the learning, development and care of children from birth to 5 years old. All schools and Ofsted-registered early years’ providers must follow the EYFS, including childminders, preschools, nurseries and school reception classes.

Education, Health and Care Plan (EHC plan)   - defined in section 37 (2) of the Children and Families Act 2014, it is a plan for children and young people aged up to 25 who need more support than is available through special educational needs support. It identifies the educational, health and social needs of the child or young person and sets out the additional support to meet those needs.

EHC needs assessment - an assessment of the education, health care and social care needs of a child or young person.

Educational Psychologist (EP) - a professional employed to assess a child or young person's special educational needs and to give advice to schools and settings on how the child's needs can be met.


Family Information Service (FIS) - the FIS provides a free and impartial information and signposting service supporting parents and carers of children from birth to 20 (25 with additional needs)

Fine Motor Skills - small movements of the body for example, using fingers to pick up small items, holding a pencil or doing up zips and buttons.

Further Education (FE) - includes further education colleges, sixth form colleges, specialist colleges and adult education institutes. It does not include universities.


Gait - the way in which a child walks.

Gastrostomy - an artificial opening in the stomach to aid feeding and nutritional support

Global development delay (GDD) - when a child takes longer to reach certain development milestones than other children their age. This might include learning to walk or talk, movement skills, learning new things and interacting with others socially and emotionally.

Gross Motor Skills - whole body actions for example, playing games, swimming or riding a bicycle.


Higher education (HE) – university level education.

HI - hearing impairment.


Home authority - this usually means the local authority in which a child or young person is ordinarily resident (and which therefore has the responsibility to the child or young person under the Children and Families Act 2014). 

Hyperactivity - difficulty in concentrating or sitting still for any length of time. Restless, fidgety behaviour, also a child may have sleeping difficulties.

Hypertonia - increased muscle tone.

Hypotonia - decreased muscle tone.


Inclusion - ensuring that all children (with or without disabilities or difficulties in learning) are, where possible, educated together at their local mainstream school.

Independent school - a school that is not maintained by a local authority. 

Independent supporter - provides information and practical support to parents/carers of children with special educational needs.

Individual Education Plan (IEP) - short term targets for achievements set, reviewed and evaluated by the school with parents/child with copies made available to parents.


Key Stages - the different stages of education that a child passes through

  • Early Years Foundation Stage - age 0-5 - Nursery and Reception
  • KS One - age 5-7 - Years 1 & 2
  • KS Two - age 7 - 11 - Years 3, 4, 5 and 6
  • KS Three - age 11 -14 - Years 7, 8 and 9
  • KS Four - age 14 - 16 - Years 10 and 11
  • KS Five - age 16+ - Sixth form or college


Learning Difficulties – when a child has educational abilities which are significantly lower than children of a similar age. Basic reading and number skills are well below average.

Learning Support Assistant (LSA) - non-teaching support staff who work with and support children with special educational needs in the classroom, also sometimes called Teaching Assistant (TA).

Local Authority (LA) – the local government responsible for managing services in your area – Luton Council.

Local Offer - all local authorities are required to publish a 'local offer'. A local offer is intended to provide a central point of information about the provisions available to children with SEN and disabilities in their area.

Looked After Child (LAC) - A child who has been in the care of their local authority for more than 24 hours is known as a looked after child. Looked after children are also often referred to as children in care, a term which many children and young people prefer.


Makaton – a system of communication that involves the combined use of manual signs and speech.

Mainstream school - a state school which can meet the needs of most children.

Maintained school - schools in England that are maintained by a local authority – any community, foundation or voluntary school, community special or foundation special school.

Mediation - a method of seeking to resolve disagreements by going to an independent mediator. Mediation must be offered to a parent or young person in relation to an EHC Plan. Mediation is not compulsory for the parent or young person but they will need to consider mediation before appealing the education parts of an EHC plan in most cases.


Named local authority officer - an officer of the Children’s Services Department who will deal with your child’s case.

National curriculum - the programmes of study and attainment targets for children's education, for all subjects at all stages.

Nasogastric tube (NG tube) - tube inserted into the stomach via the nose to aid feeding.

Non-maintained special school - a non-profit-making special school which charges fees. Most non-maintained special schools are run by charities or charitable trusts.

Non-verbal skills - skills which do not require spoken or written language but use other ways to communicate, e.g. gesture, facial expression.

Note in lieu of a statement - a document in which the local authority will set out the reasons for its decision not to make a statement after a statutory assessment.


Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) - is a common mental health condition in which a person has obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours.

Occupational Therapist (OT) - a professional trained to give advice on equipment, adaptations and activities to support the learning/social development of people with physical, emotional or behavioural difficulties 

Ofsted - Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills. This is the body which inspects and regulates services which care for children and young people and those providing education and skills for learners of all ages. 

Ophthalmologist - trained doctor with specialist skills in the diagnoses and treatment of diseases of the eye.

Oppositional Defiance Disorder  (ODD) – a conduct disorder in younger children which involves arguing (“opposing”) and disobeying (“defying”) the adults who look after them.

Orthotist – a healthcare professional who assesses individuals for and designs specialist braces, splints and footwear.

Orthoptist – a healthcare professional who investigates, diagnoses and treats sight related problems and abnormalities of eye movement and eye position.


 ‘P’ Levels - performance levels used to assess a child who is not yet working within the national curriculum levels of attainment.

Parent Carer Forum - a group of parents and carers of disabled or additional needs children who work with local authorities, education, health and other providers to make sure the services they plan and deliver meets the needs of disabled and additional needs children and their families.

Paediatrician - a doctor who deals with the medical care of infants, children, and young people from birth up to 18.

Paraplegia - impairments in sensory or motor function of the lower half of the body.

Person Centred - a way of working that makes sure a child or young person and their family are central to and involved in all aspects of planning and decision-making with the professionals and services working with them.

Personal Budget - is money set aside to fund support as part of an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan for a child or young person with special educational needs or disabilities. It can include funds from Education, Health and Social Care.

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) - the benefit replacing DLA for those over 16. It can help with some of the extra costs caused by long-term ill-health or a disability.

Physiotherapist - employed by the local health service to help people who have physical disabilities. They can help your child with exercises and provide specialist equipment.

Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) - picture based communication system commonly used be pre-verbal or non-verbal children and young people.

Play therapy - using play to help children act out and understand difficult life experiences and anxiety in order to reduce anxiety, improve self-esteem and better manage their emotions.

Portage - home based pre-school education for children with developmental delay, disabilities or any other special educational needs.

Preparing for Adulthood (PfA) - a National programme providing knowledge and support to local authorities and their partners, including families and young people, so they can ensure disabled young people achieve paid work, independent living, good health and community inclusion as they move into adulthood.

Profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD) - refers to people with more than one disability including severe learning disabilities.

Psychiatrist – a medically qualified doctor who specialises in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental health conditions.

Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) - for children who need to be educated out of school, often because they have been excluded. They have the same legal status as schools in some respects but do not have to teach the national curriculum.


Reasonable adjustments - changes schools and other settings are required to make to ensure children and young people with special educational needs and/or disability are not substantially disadvantaged.  


Social, emotional and mental health difficulties (SEMH) -  is used to talk about children or young people who may have previously be described as having BESD (behavioural, emotional or social difficulties).

Special Educational Needs (SEN) - a child or young person has SEN if they have a learning difficulty or disability which means they have significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others of the same age, or their disability makes it difficult for them to make use of educational facilities provided for others of a same age in mainstream schools or mainstream post 16 institutions.

Special Educational Needs and Disability Information, Advice and Support Service (SENDIAS) - independent information and advice service for families with a child with SEND aged 0 – 25 and for young people up to age 25.

Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) – the teacher with responsibility for co-ordinating special help for children with SEN at their school.

Special Educational Provision - is provision that is different from or additional to that normally available to pupils or students of the same age, which is designed to help children and young people with special educational needs or disabilities to access the National Curriculum at school or to study at college.

SEN Information Report - all schools must publish on their websites information about their policy and arrangements for supporting children and young people with SEN.  The schools are also required to keep this information up to date. 

SEN Support - any help for children and young people with special educational needs that is additional to or different from the support generally made for other children of the same age. The purpose of SEN support is to help children achieve the outcomes or learning objectives that have been set for them by the school. Schools should involve parents in this process.

SEND - Special educational needs and/or disabilities. 

Severe - some professionals may use the term severe when they talk about a child's needs. This is a term used to talk about children with complex needs who will require input from a range of professionals because of the impact of their difficulties are having on their learning or ability to do physical things others do easily.

Severe learning difficulties (SLD) – not a legal term but often used in relation to the description of a school, i.e. an SLD school.

Speech and Language Therapist (SALT) - a person who helps children who have language difficulties or speech problems.

Special educational needs and disability code of practice: 0 to 25 years  - statutory guidance on the SEN and disability system for children and young people aged 0 to 25, produced for organisations which work with and support children and young people who have SEN or disabilities.

Special school - a school which is specifically organised to make special educational provision for pupils with SEN.


Transition - a time of change which could be at particular points during a child's education for example moving from primary to secondary school, or a move between services, for example moving from children's services to adult services.

Transition plan - A plan drawn up at the annual review of the statement held when a child reaches Year 9 (13 or 14 years old). It sets out the steps and support needed for him or her to move from school to adult life.

Tribunal - an independent body that determines appeals by parents or young people against LA decisions on EHC needs assessment and EHC plans


VI - Visual impairment.