There are increasing numbers of complex SEND cases in nurseries, and EYFS settings are managing. Without additional funding to alter resources, supporting additional needs on tight budgets is challenging. In this blog, Blossom shares how to support the top 3 common SEND needs in early years settings on a budget.
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What are the most common EYFS SEND needs?
The most common SEND needs are divided into two sections: those under an Educational Health Care Plan (EHCP) and those children requiring SEN support. This article will focus on the top 3 SEND needs found in UK educational settings: SLCN, SEMH and MLD.
What is SLCN in the early years?
Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN) can make communicating challenging for children. Affecting how a child interacts with others, SLCN is the most common SEND need for children in UK schools. The term SLCN covers a broad range of communication difficulties and can be the primary need or combined with another primary need.
To explain further, you may have a child who has SLCN as their primary need and has a diagnosis of language disorder, making language acquisition and retention a challenge. Alternatively, a child with a hearing impairment may experience a speech delay due to the primary hearing need.
It is estimated that 1 in 10 people have some form of speech, language and communication need. Factoring in the pandemic’s impact on young children’s communication and interaction skills, toddlers with undiagnosed SLCN can sometimes display challenging behaviours.
Blossom Educational supports practitioners to record important EYFS observations with ease, minimising the time admin takes, meaning longer to interact with the children. Parents are easy to contact for any SLCN concerns you or your setting’s SENDCo may have, and the parent home observation feature helps to build a bigger picture of the child’s development.
What is SEMH in the early years?
SEMH is the second most common SEN support need in the UK; it is also a recognised growing need for children with Educational Health Care Plans. Social, emotional, and mental health needs are varied and can cause challenges for nursery practitioners, as many of the needs can be masked by challenging behaviours. Children with SEMH needs may have difficulty managing their emotions and feelings, which can result in challenging external or internal behaviours. Supporting the child’s personal, social and emotional development (PSED) in their early years can help build the mental healthy habits needed for building positive wellbeing strategies.
SEMH has no definitive cause or source; several factors are thought to contribute to a child having SEMH needs:
Supporting a child with SEMH needs can be difficult when nursery practitioners are already stretched within their current ratio. Whether the child reacts actively or passively, practitioners must record each incident to identify potential triggers and teach positive regulation strategies.
What is MLD in EYFS?
Moderate Learning Difficulties (MLD) are the third most commonly found SEND need in UK schools. Another broad term that covers a wide range of needs and displayed learning behaviours, MLD often covers learning difficulties that may result in a child’s delay in progressing at the same level as their peers.
Children with MLD may find cognition, learning, communication, and interaction activities challenging. Some other common signs of MLD may be:
The causes of Moderate Learning Difficulties in children are, again, unclear. There are thought to be contributing factors:
What are the SEND requirements for early years?
As outlined in the EYFS statutory framework and the SEND Code of Practice, nurseries and childcare providers must follow SEND good practices to ensure an inclusive and adaptive environment for all children.
Each nursery setting should have robust and efficient processes and procedures to support SEND needs effectively.
The SEND requirements for EYFS settings include:
How to support SEND needs on an EYFS budget.
Supporting children with additional needs can be challenging in a nursery setting due to the high level of needs of young children already. You may consider trying several whole-setting strategies to help support the children and your practitioners when a child presents with additional needs without additional funding.
Whole setting strategies to support SEND children in EYFS.
If a child communicates difficulties interacting within the nursery timetable or structure, there may be underlying unmet SEND needs. It is essential to support SEND children and support practitioners by identifying these needs early on. Early identification and support can make the EYFS setting more manageable for the child, helping them to learn and develop.
Consider evaluating your provision’s current identification processes, particularly the practitioner’s observations for SEND children. Quick and easy observation methods can help practitioners to note down all the small pieces of information that can be used to understand the big picture of a child’s needs.
Inclusive practice in the nursery.
Inclusive practice should include long and short-term plans for your setting. Ensuring all children are supported and have access to EYFS activities that help their individual needs and development levels. The benefits of inclusive practice are immeasurable. Inclusion should be at the heart of your EYFS curriculum, making adjustments to differentiate a task based on need and interests easily to ensure equal participation for all children.
Nursery practitioner CPD for SEND.
EYFS SEND needs are constantly changing as research into conditions improves; this allows practitioners to increase skill levels, identification understanding and confidence to meet evolving needs.
Building a bespoke CPD journey for your team around the current and future SEND dynamics of your EYFS setting doesn’t have to be costly. Practitioners can utilise skills from another colleague, read helpful articles and access free online training for specific needs. Effectively planning CPD for your practitioners can help to support complex SEND needs.
EYFS parent relationships for SEND support.
Strong parent-nursery partnerships are important in gathering all information possible on a child’s strengths and areas of difficulty. Building a trusting working relationship can help practitioners have tough conversations with parents, broaching the potential SEND needs they have observed with honesty and transparency.
How to support SLCN in EYFS.
SLCN can present in challenging behaviour and require significant support from practitioners if left unmet or unidentified. Implementing several EYFS language and communication activities into your nursery’s daily diet can help to confirm concerns and give additional opportunities to build observational evidence, which can be used to plan future support for the child.
Make your nursery a talking one; nurseries are rarely quiet. A nursery room should be full of discussions, child-child interactions, and adult modelling. If your EYFS setting experiences low levels of language development on entry, a simple audit of the speech and language opportunities the children receive can help boost language development. For example, your setting may include standalone pictures in their EYFS storytime activities, helping children to begin imaginative discussions.
Concrete learning experiences help children with SLCN to attach language to the learning experience. Examine the variety of planned learning experiences, educational visits and offsite trips; even a walk to the local park can build valuable vocabulary.
Increase processing time for children with SLCN; discuss the approaches each practitioner should take with children displaying language and communication development delays during your next staff meeting. Encourage understanding of the need for additional processing and thinking time and how to give children the confidence to make mistakes but still participate actively in discussions.
How to support SEMH in EYFS.
Including frequent PSED EYFS activities throughout your curriculum can help children learn about basic emotions and feelings. Children can begin to regulate their own emotions during their time in nursery. Modelling these strategies and skills regularly during group circle times can benefit children with SEMH needs.
Physical exercise, including access to sensory activities, is essential when meeting SEMH needs. Children should be able to engage freely with sensory play activities to regulate and develop their social skills and interactions with others, including turn-taking and sharing skills. Try implementing simple sensory circuits across your setting, evaluating the areas the children enjoy in their learning diaries.
Discover how the D-Dee’s Day Nursery has improved parent communication to support individual children’s needs.
“The importance of validating a child’s feelings cannot be underestimated,” Dr Dunster-Page explains. Too often, nursery practitioners and EYFS teachers can unknowingly discount a child’s feelings, impacting their ability to effectively process and manage their future emotions.
For example, if a child is missing their parent and begins to become emotional, it can be easy for nursery practitioners to assume they are reassuring the child by saying, “Don’t worry, they will be collecting you at the end of the day, you can see them then.”
Dr Dunster-Page encourages validating the child’s feelings, “I understand you miss Mum; how can I help right now?”
How to support MLD in EYFS.
Supporting MLD in EYFS on a budget also relies on whole-nursery strategies. There are many engaging resources to buy, but ultimately, staff time is the most costly resource used to support SEND in the early years. Using strategies that can support the child on a broader scale through early identification and intervention can help to reduce the long-term cost of 1:1 support for a child whose needs are still unmet.
Staff training and language choices, like the support suggestions for SLCN and SEMH needs, staff CPD is the wide-brush approach to improving inclusive provision for children with additional needs. During a staff meeting, encourage practitioners to reflect on their own practice. Are the children given enough response time during an activity? Are there patterns of confusion when long instructions are used? Could visual timetables be used to support the anxious child struggling with transitional change?
Repetition of core independence skills can help children with MLD develop the self-care skills needed to be ready for their next educational stage (primary school). Finding methods of repeating similar skills across different scenarios and opportunities helps children become secure with necessary independent skills, like personal hygiene and effectively communicating their wants and needs.
Track and observe children’s responses to EYFS learning activities using online learning diaries. Making sharing the information recorded easy with parents, practitioners can upload images and videos quickly, allowing for a comprehensive picture of a child’s ability and parent relationship building.
How can Blossom help to support SEND needs?
Nursery managers and owners UK-wide love Blossom Educational, the easy-to-use software that helps to monitor the big picture of support SEND children receive in EYFS. From funding tracking to observations, Blossom helps to ensure no child goes unnoticed in a crucial stage of development.
Contact one of our SEND experts today to discuss how Blossom can improve your inclusive practice.