How to Support Children with Special Educational Needs


2020 has been difficult for all pupils at primary and secondary schools. The initial lockdown in March and the disrupted learning since September will have had a massive impact on their education and friendships with classmates. This is especially true for pupils with special educational needs who might have struggled to adjust to learning from home. In this blog post, I will outline some strategies for adults to use to support these children.

Get to know the child’s learning style

Every child is different. This means that what works for one child will not necessarily work for another. Some children really value consistency and would like their learning to be similar every day; this might mean having a fixed routine of what time homework is done and a fixed rule about when rewards are earned. Other children much prefer flexibility and might benefit from being allowed to split their work up into small chunks. Talking to the children and observing them work is the best way to work out what is the best way for them to learn.


Differentiate is a teaching term which means adjusting tasks to suit the needs of pupils. For example, a maths teacher might give more difficult questions to a particularly intelligent child and support weaker students by giving them support such as a times table grid or a number line. If you find that the young person you are helping is finding the work too hard or too easy do not be afraid to adjust the task to suit their needs. If you find that the work being sent home from school is consistently at the wrong level, talking to the teacher would be the best course of action. All teachers will be willing to adjust the difficulties of homework to help pupils flourish.

Read regularly

Reading is a key GCSE skill in History, Geography, Religious Education, PE, English and others. All pupils would benefit from practicing their reading skills throughout their secondary school career. The best way to get young people engaged in reading is by encouraging them to read material which they will be interested in. For example, a young person who enjoys science fiction comedy cartoons such as Futurama might enjoy reading The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. A young person who enjoys stories about survival and adventure would like The Hunger Games. English teachers would be more than happy to recommend some books to suit pupils’ interests, so don’t hesitate to get in touch. Many books can be borrowed for free from local libraries or downloaded very cheaply from Amazon.

Take breaks

Taking a break is really important for the learner and the adult that is helping them. As adults, we understand that we do our best work when we are relaxed and rested. This is even more important for children. Good ideas for quick breaks include taking a short walk outside and eating a healthy snack.

This blog is written by Samuel Heaton, an experienced teacher and Cardiff & Vale Tutor.

Photo by Christina Morillo.

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