Severe or Complex Learning Difficulties

In the past pupils with severe learning difficulties or complex needs would have been placed in special schools. This is not always the case now and increasingly pupils with severe physical disabilities are joining mainstream classes. It might be reasonable to suggest that the SENDA legislation will make this much more possible in many cases. Most pupils will have a medical diagnosis and will have had medical intervention since a very young age, but it is important to remember that some conditions, e.g. muscular dystrophy, may not be diagnosed until the early years of school. In addition to their physical problems, these children may or may not have learning difficulties. It is also important to remember that the needs of children with physical conditions may change over time, more so than with their able-bodied peers.

There is likely to be a large team of professionals and carers involved in the life of a physically disabled child and it is important that each knows and understands what the aims for the child are. They should all be working towards the same purpose. One way of helping this liaison might be to use a folder into which each person places their reports and which is owned and carried by the child.

Although it may seem obvious to consider such things as access and motability, other things need to be thought about such as the dignity of the child in terms of toileting, seating and feeding. In addition, it is extremely important that the whole ethos of the school is about inclusion; not just integration in terms of the child being physically present in the class, but about him/her being part of the class. The child’s medical and physical needs are part and parcel of how he/she will access the curriculum and should therefore be a consideration when planning.

A baseline needs to be established from the point of view of each area of need. The EP should then be constructed with input from all the involved professionals and will include educational, physical, therapeutic, medical and behavioural targets. This will enable overlap where teaching in one area can help in another. Each professional may well have to prioritise the targets to suit their particular role.

Teaching Strategies

People who can help: SENCO/Resource Teacher


Further Information

Including Pupils with SLD in the Numeracy Strategy

Multi-sensory Rooms

Teaching and Learning with Pupils who have Severe Learning Difficulties

Innovative ways of electronic access to curriculum