Back to Blogs

A Beginner's Guide to SEN Teaching: What You Need to Know

  • Publish Date: Posted about 1 year ago
  • Author: Tristan

​Are you new to SEN teaching? If so, then you’re in the right place! Teaching students with special educational needs (SEN) can be a daunting and overwhelming task, especially if you’re a beginner. In this blog post, Dunbar Education will be taking a look at the basics of SEN teaching, so that you can feel more confident and prepared when it comes to teaching your students. Read on to find out what you need to know about SEN teaching.


The Different Types of SEN

Special educational needs (SEN) are a range of difficulties that a student may have which impacts their learning. There are four main areas of SEN, which are: communication and interaction, cognition and learning, social, emotional and mental health difficulties, and physical or sensory needs.

Communication and Interaction: This area refers to difficulty in understanding or using language, or difficulty forming relationships with peers and adults. Examples include autistic spectrum disorder, speech, language and communication needs (SLCN), dyslexia, and social communication disorder.

Cognition and Learning: This area refers to difficulties understanding information and learning new skills. Examples include dyscalculia (difficulty with maths), dyspraxia (poor coordination and motor skills), dysgraphia (difficulty with handwriting), and learning disabilities.

Social, Emotional and Mental Health Difficulties: This area includes difficulty controlling emotions, difficulty making and maintaining friendships, feelings of anxiety, low self-esteem, and problems with behavioural regulation. Examples include Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), anxiety disorders, conduct disorder, Tourette’s Syndrome, attachment disorder, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.

Physical and Sensory Needs: This area refers to difficulties in hearing, vision, physical mobility, medical conditions and mental health problems. Examples include deafness or hearing impairment, visual impairment including blindness, physical disabilities such as cerebral palsy or Down’s Syndrome, and long-term health conditions such as asthma or diabetes.

It is important to note that all students are different, and therefore each student’s SEN may be unique to them. It is also important to remember that many students may have more than one type of SEN. It is important for teachers to have an understanding of the different types of SEN so they can provide the best support for their students.


Assessing a Child's Needs

When it comes to Special Educational Needs (SEN) teaching, it is essential that the needs of the individual are identified and assessed before any educational plan is put into place. Assessing a child's needs starts with observation, so it is important for SEN teachers to observe the child in their natural environment, as well as in the classroom setting.

Observation can be carried out in a number of ways. SEN teachers should observe how the child interacts with their peers, how they respond to tasks, and how they react to changes in the environment. Teachers should also observe the child's behaviour, including any physical movements or gestures, as well as their communication abilities. Additionally, teachers should take note of the child's physical abilities and strengths, as well as any weaknesses they may have.

Apart from observation, SEN teachers can also use a range of assessment tools to gain further insight into the child's needs. These assessments may include formal and informal tests, such as cognitive assessments, physical assessments, and language tests. Other assessments that may be used are questionnaires completed by parents, teachers and other professionals involved in the child's care. This data will be analysed and used to create an individual education plan (IEP).

Assessment of a child's needs is a critical part of SEN teaching and should be done thoroughly. With a thorough assessment, SEN teachers can ensure that the best possible plan is created for the individual, which will help them reach their full potential.


Individual Education Plans (IEPs)

Individual Education Plans (IEPs) are written plans that provide a framework for teaching students with special educational needs. They are designed to help meet the specific needs of each student and ensure that they are receiving the best possible education.

An IEP sets out the goals of the student, including what they need to learn, how they need to learn it, and how their progress will be monitored. It also outlines any support they may need in order to achieve these goals.

When writing an IEP, teachers should take into account the individual needs of the student. This includes taking into account the student’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as any medical or emotional conditions that may impact their ability to learn. The IEP should also consider any learning strategies or resources that might help the student succeed.

IEPs should be reviewed regularly, as the needs of the student may change over time. The review process should involve both parents and teachers, as well as any other professionals who are working with the student. In this way, everyone can work together to ensure that the IEP is tailored to the individual needs of the student.

IEPs can be a great tool for helping students with special educational needs reach their full potential. By having an IEP in place, teachers can ensure that they are providing the best possible education for their students.


Classroom Strategies

When teaching students with special educational needs, it is important to create an environment that meets the individual student’s needs. Some strategies that teachers can use to help create a successful learning environment include:

1. Differentiated Instruction: Differentiated instruction is a teaching strategy that focuses on providing students with a variety of ways to learn the same material. This can include different texts, activities, or media. By allowing students to access material in their preferred way, they are more likely to engage with the lesson and retain the information.

2. Visual Aids: Visual aids can be used to help students comprehend complex topics or tasks. Visual aids such as diagrams, photos, maps, and videos can help break down topics into easier-to-understand concepts. This will also help keep students engaged and allow them to process the information more easily.

3. Collaborative Learning: Collaborative learning encourages students to work together to complete a task or project. Working together in this way helps build confidence, encourages communication skills, and teaches students how to work as part of a team. This type of learning also allows students to get help from one another when needed.

4. Technology: Technology can be a great asset in the classroom. Using tools such as interactive whiteboards, apps, and online resources can help make lessons easier to understand and engage students in the learning process.

These are just a few of the many strategies that can be used in the classroom when teaching students with special educational needs. Ultimately, the goal is to create an environment that is supportive and encourages learning. With careful planning and consideration of the student’s individual needs, teachers can create a classroom that allows each student to succeed.



As a SEN teacher, having access to reliable resources is essential for providing the best possible education for students with special needs. There are a wide range of resources available for both teachers and parents to help identify and address any educational issues that children with special needs may have.

For teachers, there are online forums, websites, and magazines dedicated to helping SEN teachers. You can find information on the latest research, best practices, and teaching strategies. You can also look for resources that are specifically tailored to meet the needs of your students and the curriculum.

For parents, there are plenty of books, websites, and organizations that offer support. Many of these provide information on how to help their children with disabilities succeed in school, including strategies for dealing with challenging behaviors. Additionally, parent organizations may be able to refer you to qualified professionals who can provide further assistance.

Finally, there are government programs that provide funding for special education services for eligible students. These include services such as speech and language therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, psychological services, and more. To find out if your student is eligible for these services, you should contact your local school district or state department of education.