SEND Challenges

Recognition of challenging behaviours in children with special educational needs and disabilities often leads to confusion about which school would be most appropriate to cater for those needs.

Particular behaviours which are outwardly aggressive in nature need SEN schools which may provide one-to-one support and specific facilities such as a sensory pool, trampoline or quiet rooms to match the triggers of the aggression.  A child may need a physical outlet for their inner frustrations or a calming environment with coping strategies to instil a sense of safety.

Children who self-harm or ‘act out’ may do so as a means of reducing a fear of the unfamiliar and the frustration of feeling misunderstood. Such behaviours may present as head banging, hand or arm biting, hair pulling, face and head slapping or scratching, common symptoms found in some children with autism.

In order to understand the challenging behaviours seen in some children with SEND it is important to have insight into the drivers behind the triggers.

Repetitive speech and actions along with rocking motions can be a source of comfort to a child, while destructive behaviour can indicate a need for stimulation.  Other hyperactive behaviours such as sudden aggressive outbursts involving shouting and running around can be associated with a need for attention or avoidance of being asked to do something.

Many children with SEND have difficulties expressing their feelings and needs and this experience of helplessness can present in challenging behaviours which may impact on their relationship with their peers.

It is important to take all the above factors into consideration when choosing a school which will fully support a child with a particular set of challenges. Matching a child with intense needs to a SEN school will depend on the child’s temperament and condition. Relevant questions concerning class sizes, which subjects are offered, how behavioural challenges will be managed and how progress will be measured should all be considered.

SEN schools will offer their own particular strengths which can be focused on emotional and mental health, cognitive, social, sensory and physical needs, visual or speech impairment and communication difficulties.

Changes to the way education and support will be delivered post-pandemic means the future of SEN learning, like most areas in the Education sector, will undoubtedly include remote learning and device access which will need very careful management so that the socialisation, emotional, speech and language development so essential to the progress of children with SEND is not interrupted.  For some children, too much screen time can trigger aggressive and frustrated behaviours through sitting in the same place for any length of time.  Children with SEN challenges and autism in particular, need regular human contact and freedom to move around and express themselves if they are not to feel isolated, marginalised or restricted.

‘Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.’


For further advice on sourcing the best SEN school for your child, please visit: