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What support can my SEND child get at nursery?

Your child starting nursery is an exciting time for all the family but if your child has special educational needs and / or disabilities there can be much more to think about. Nurseries, playgroups and childminders registered with Ofsted follow the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework. The framework makes sure that there’s support in place for children with SEND.


These are all totally natural worries:

  • Does the setting take children with SEND?
  • Will the setting understand their needs?
  • I think my child may my child need one to one support is this possible?
  • Who will make sure they get the help they need?
  • What if my child doesn’t eat the food?
  • My child struggles to play with other children, how will this be managed?
  • My child needs special equipment throughout the day, how does that work?
  • What happens around sensory needs?
  • What if my child is not toilet or potty trained and are unlikely to be for their time at the setting?
  • How will my child respond to a new environment and new staff? How ill this be managed?
  • My child can experience very strong emotions, will the setting be supportive and help them at these times?

Most providers will have experience of looking after children with additional needs and will be very welcoming to you and your child. When you visit settings that you are interested in do mention your child’s needs, they will be more than happy to discuss their processes and what they can do to help. If your child already has an EHC plan they can help show you how they will meet it’s requirements.


If you are just thinking about nursery or other childcare here are some questions that you may want to ask:

  • What experience does the setting have with children with the same SEND as your child?
  • Are any staff trained on issues relating to your child’s disability e.g: Autism, Epilepsy, Hydrocephalus? If not can this be arranged before your child starts?
  • Can the settling in period be adapted for your child if necessary?
  • How often is all staff training on SEND reviewed?
  • How do they communicate with you?
  • Can you have a meeting with the Special Educational Needs Co-Ordinator (SENCo) before your child starts?
  • Are they able to be flexible about specific issues e.g. food sensitivities or expectations around toilet training?
  • Do they have experience supporting a child with an EHC Plan?
  • Do they have experience applying for an EHC Plan?
  • Are they happy to have outside professionals in to observe your child or provide training or information to staff to increase understanding of your child’s condition?

Although it is illegal for a setting to discriminate against a child with SEND, no parent wants an ongoing battle with a setting that doesn’t seem to understand their child’s condition or your concerns as a parent. If you feel that the setting is not as positive about your child’s future and development as you feel they should be it may be worth looking around. If you can visit at least three settings this will give you a good idea where you feel the most comfortable.


If you think your child may have special educational needs after they have started

Contact the SEN co-ordinator, or ‘SENCO’ in your child’s  or nursery. They can meet with you to discuss what your child may need and how they can help. If they agree that they may need some additional funds and support to provide what your child needs they can apply for an education, health and care (EHC) plan.

Talk to a doctor or health adviser if you think your child has SEND but they do not go to a nursery, playgroup or childminder. They’ll tell you what support options are available.


There is lots of support for you here:

IPSEA How your nursery school and college should help

IPSEA Rules and processes for EHC Needs Assessment for children younger than compulsory school age

Contact Support in the early Years 

Contact Workshops





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