Abbreviations in Special Educational Needs – what do they mean?

Children in a circle in a special education classroom

A special educational needs setting

One thing you’ll notice about Special Educational Needs is the sheer number of abbreviations and acronyms you have to learn. What’s the difference between ASD and ADHD? What’s an EHCP? Should you be afraid of a COP? This guide should help you navigate…

(note: Where an abbreviation is written in initial lower case, it is usually pronounced as a word, for example it’s Senco, not ess ee en see oh).


ABA – Applied Behaviour Analysis is used to help children with autism, it looks at patterns of  behaviour and tries to find causes, and ways of dealing with them or preventing them.

AD – attachment disorder (sometimes attachment behaviour disorder, or ABD). This is a range of conditions believed to be caused by trauma in early childhood, which can lead to behavioural problems in childhood and adult life.

ADHD – attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. This is a range of symptoms including impulsiveness, restlessness and finding it harder to focus than your peers. Because of the setting of school it is most often diagnosed during primary school age.

AR – Annual Review. All children with a statement of special educational needs (now an Education Health and Care Plan) have this provision reviewed once a year, to ensure it still meets their needs, or to see if it is no longer required. If progress is being made and the plan is right for the child without amendments, there may be a No Change Review (NCR).

APD – Auditory Processing Disorder – a child can hear ok medically, but is unable to process the meaning of words. Sometimes they can repeat words but without knowing what they are saying.

AS – Asperger Syndrome. A type of autism that generally involves higher functioning individuals who perceive the world in a way that most people would see as different. It is not associated with the learning delay or disabilities of other kinds of autism.

ASC – Autistic Spectrum Conditions. Many professionals now use the term “condition” instead of “disorder” to promote the idea that autism should not be a barrier to living a complete life, with necessary adjustments. See ASD.

ASD – autistic spectrum disorder, aka autism. This is a different way of perceiving the world around you. People with ASD often have difficulty reading emotions, making relationships or understanding social situations as easily as their peers, as well as a degree of learning difficulty. But as the word “spectrum” suggests, it covers a number of different levels of need, and conditions of varying severity.

ARE – age related expectations. If a child is working Below Age Related Expectations (BARE) they may have special educational needs.

BARE – see ARE

BESD Behaviour, Emotional and Social Difficulties (also known as SEBD or EBD) is a ‘catch-all’ term  used for any condition that affects behaviour, emotions or social interactions. It
is used for a wide range of conditions and children.

BSP – Behaviour Support Plan. These are usually put in place by schools for children who have behavioural issues to assess their progress and outline expectations over a set period of time, for example a school term.

Camhs – Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services.

CIC – Child in Care. A child who is being looked after by (for example) a foster family after they have been removed from their parents by social services.

COP (or Cop) – Change of Provision. This is where a child moves from a special school to a mainstream school, or vice versa, because their needs (or the assessment of them) has changed.

CPAP (Cee-pap)- Continuous Positive Airway Pressure is a fan and a face-mask, that blows air at the child increasing the air pressure to open the airways of the throat. It is used for breathing difficulties such as heavy snoring, asthma, low blood oxygen levels (SATS) and sleep apnoea.

EAL – English as an additional language. This generally means young people for whom English is not their first language, who may speak another language at home.

EHCP – Education, Health and Care Plan. This is a plan to help a child who has special educational needs in school. They are replacing statements and will have entirely replaced them by April 2018. There is a good post here on navigating that process.

EP (or Ed Psych) – Educational Psychologist. These experts help assess the needs of children who may have special educational needs by observing children in their educational setting.

EYFS – Early Years Foundation Stage. This is school or nursery-based education from birth to the end of Reception, when a child is five years old.

G Tube
A Gastronomy tube way of feeding a child who has swallowing or difficulty eating. There is a tube through the stomach wall (known as a PEG) so that food and medicines can go directly into the stomach. It is a longer term alternative to NG Tubes.

HI – Hearing Impairment (or Hearing Impaired).

IEP – Individual Education Plan
An IEP is a plan or a program built to help a child achieve the targets outlined in an
EHCP. It is built around the curriculum that the child is following and uses strategies
tailored directly to the child.

KS – Key Stage. Education in England is divided into Key Stages – KS1 from 5 to 7 years old, KS2 from 7 to 11, KS3 from 11 to 14 and KS4 from 14 to 16.

LA – Local Authority.

LAC – Looked After Child. More common term nowadays is CIC or “child in care”.

LSA – Learning Support Assistant. These education professionals often work one-to-one with a particular child with SEN to develop a relationship and help with their learning, which may be particularly differentiated to their needs. They may also assist with physical needs eg toileting.

MLD – moderate learning difficulties.

NCR – No Change Review. See AR.

Neet (or NEET) – Not in Education, Employment or Training. Young people without qualifications are at risk of being Neet – where their options for work or education are limited.

NG- tube – A thin (often yellow) Naso-gastric tube that can be used short term for emergency food and drink when a child cannot eat. It goes through the nose, down the throat and into the stomach and requires trained use as there is a danger that the tube is in an airway and not in the stomach.

OT – Occupational Therapy (or Therapist). Day-to-day physical therapies for children who have disabilities or who may require recuperation from eg surgery.

Pecs (or PECS) – Picture Exchange Communication System. This is a way of using pictures to represent words, to assist children who have communication issues and autism.

PMLD – Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties. These are children who require the most support in an educational setting.

PRU – Pupil Referral Unit. These are institutions which take “hard to place” children who may have severe SEN or behavioural issues, with the latter resulting in exclusion from a mainstream school.

SALT (or S&LT) – Speech And Language Therapy (or Therapist). These are professionals who help children, especially those with communication difficulties or autism.

SATS – oxygen saturations, often with ‘SATS monitor’ as seen on hospitals wards, they show a percentage indicating how much oxygen in the the blood. They can be small and portable or bigger when used for overnight monitoring. A home sats monitor can be bought here.

Grey box with digital percentage readings

A typical SATS monitor used in NHS hospitals but can also be given to parents for overnight monitoring

SLT – Senior Leadership Team. At a school, this comprises the head teacher and assistant heads (plus principals, if it is an academy).

SEMH – social, emotional and mental health. This is a range of needs that can include behavioural problems and anxiety.

SEN (or Sen) – special educational needs.

Senco (or SENCO, or Sendco, or SENDCO) – Special Educational Needs (and Disabilities) Co-ordinator. These are qualified teachers who organise and co-ordinate a school’s SEN provision by working with other professionals, organising EHCPs and interventions etc.

SEND – special educational needs and disabilities

SWAN – Syndrome without a name
Children who doctors have been unable to diagnose with a specific condition are
often referred to as SWAN. These are usually children with a genetic disorder. A support charity called SWAN is here.

TA – Teaching Assistant. These professionals have a couple of roles: in the classroom they support the work of the class teachers, and they also teach small groups of children, particularly with interventions.

VI – Visual Impairment (or Visually Impaired).

Some of this information was taken from a printable glossary created by the Little Miracles charity which is available to download here

Little Miracles is a charity that supports children with disabilities and their families and siblings in the Peterborough area of UK.

Please suggest any acronyms or abbreviations that you have encountered in the comments.

Real Greepers shoelaces could have the edge on elastics

New research has struck a blow for “real” shoelaces in the battle against elastic laces.

The report, published in the Journal of Sports Sciences, looked at different lacing patterns in sports shoes, and found that a firm “foot-to-shoe coupling” (FTSC) could be beneficial to athletes and less sporty folk alike.

It’s not just professional athletes who will benefit from the security of Greepers laces

Real shoelaces, such as those used by the revolutionary “always tied” Greepers laces, provide that secure attachment.

The research went on to say: “A firm foot-to-shoe coupling… leads to a more effective use of running shoe features and is likely to reduce the risk of lower limb injury.”

Researchers at Sheffield University are investigating the benefits of running performance using real laces, and have uncovered some promising findings that should make all runners  – and non-runners alike – think about how they lace their shoes.

Why choose real shoelaces?

The right shoes – and laces – can make a world of difference to runners. A firm FTSC helps stop excessive movement of the foot and lower leg, reducing the risk of injury by eliminating unnecessary bends, pulls and twists.

Think about how your foot moves when you plant it on the ground. Do you want it firmly anchored, or able to stretch on elastic? Opinions vary among professional athletes and occupational therapists alike, and sometimes it’s a matter of personal taste and preference.

champion triathlete running through the rain with greeper laces

Silver winning Jacqui Allen at the ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships.
Greeper laces are used by top athletes.

But, with research indicating that injuries could be reduced with less stretchy laces, the debate is sure to intensify.

And, unlike elastic laces that allow extra movement of the foot as you pound the pavements, “real” shoelaces such as Greepers provide minimal movement, aiming to lessen the impact of every step.

review of greeper laces

Greeper review in Triathon Magazine

Security with every step

It’s not just athletes who will find a benefit in having shoelaces that are firmly attached. It’s easy to see how disabled athletes, people with joint pain or bone weakness and  those of us with reduced mobility need security and stability with every single step.

Greepers provide a simple and accessible solution. Once they’re tied once, you don’t need to tie them again – meaning they can be loosened and tightened but not undone. If you find it a pain to reach down and tie shoelaces, or need a shoelacing solution for someone who needs to know they won’t have to keep tying and untying at school, these sturdy and stylish laces offer the perfect package.gif showing how to tie greeper laces

Greepers are available in a range of different styles

Many parents find the Greepers laces the perfect choice for children who have a range of needs, for example if children regularly take off their shoes at unwanted times or if they have difficulty in tying them and don’t like the feel of Velcro fastenings.

There’s also the Greeper fastening device for people who can only use one hand, to help get the laces snug.





Greepers are available at

Accessing mental health services? A plan for difficult times.

A personal guide to accessing mental health services

Sometimes it feels like accessing mental health services is like trying to please Goldilocks. Sometimes you’re too unwell; sometimes you’re not unwell enough. You must jump through hoops to prove you are as badly in need of help as you say you are; but if you’re well enough to jump through them, are you really in need of help? Here’s a short guide on how to navigate that tricky dilemma, and access the help to which you’re entitled.

People sitting in a doctors waiting room

You don’t always have to go to the waiting room to get help with mental health

The dilemma

It’s the dilemma that many of us have faced – me included. The fluctuating nature of many mental health conditions means that when you’re at your lowest, it’s hard to perform even basic tasks, let alone face the outside world. To give an example: even leaving the house or communicating by telephone can be beyond the capabilities of someone who is undergoing a crisis. I’ve been there, sitting by the phone, looking at it in my hand, for hours, unable to press the buttons, or dialling and then feeling sick straight away, then waiting until it rings and hanging up. How can you even begin to help yourself when simply reaching out is so hard in the first place?

It might sound straightforward, then, to ride out the worst parts of a mental health crisis, then seek help when you’re feeling better. But it’s not that simple, for several reasons. You might not want to think about mental health, let alone talk about times when you’ve been at your worst, when things are finally coming together. You may hope that it was a temporary blip that has been overcome.

But it gets worse. Attempt to seek help for a long-term problem when you’re feeling well, and some people will tell you that they aren’t fully understood by health professionals, up to and including GPs and mental health professionals. If you’ve got back to the part where you’ve managed to leave the house, go to work and even book an appointment, everything’s all right again, isn’t it?

Isn’t it?

Well, no. It isn’t. But the irony is painful: you can only be in a place where you’re able to discuss your symptoms at the very point at which they are least visible and least present. To the outside world, you are presenting the face you would like them to see: they are not seeing you in a crisis, because the person you are in a crisis is one who might hide away and not even be able to speak to them at all.

Make a plan

It might seem counterintuitive to get help when you feel least symptomatic, but it can be a good idea. You can be lucid enough to make sense of what has been happening. Additionally, you are in a place where you’re most able to make use of your access to the outside world. And you’re also capable of talking and listening without being as highly stressed by these activities as you might otherwise be.

You might think that, when you’re well, it’s exactly the wrong time to make a plan about what to do when things get worse – after all, you hope against hope that they aren’t. But… suppose they do. You’ll thank yourself for having done that hard work when you were able to. So get a plan in place. Who will you speak to? How will you find help? Do you have everything to hand, in a place where you can find it? Do it, if you can. Just in case. It’s always just in case. A good place to start is the Rethink website, which has plenty of links and information. If it’s a crisis, you can speak to the Samaritans in person, on the phone or via email.

Write it down

That said, it might not be easy to access the rawness of the highs and lows you are able to experience at other times, so how can you get across how they feel? One way, if you can, and if you feel safe enough to do so, is to write it down. There’s something about putting feelings into words that touches a different part of yourself to just talking. It makes you think a little more deeply; at the very least you have to confront the reality of what happens, or happened. As I’ve alluded to, that is only something that should be done if you feel ready, but if you do, do it.

It might seem artificial to “perform” reading from a series of notes when you finally get in a room with someone, or on a telephone. But a script or a set of bullet points can help. There’s a chance that the sheer emotion of finally saying what you’ve been dying to say might make you trip over and forget your words. For some of us, we end up sounding like we’re speaking so slowly that there’s a lifetime between every single syllable. But those moments will pass. Someone who will help you will let the words come out.

Jump through those hoops

Sometimes it feels like there’s no help. That dread of the phone call to the GP receptionist, who tells you there’s no appointments until next month if it isn’t “urgent”, might lead you to put it off. But don’t put it off. And you might not even have to deal with the usual gatekeepers.

Now, this doesn’t apply everywhere, and it’s very much a postcode lottery, but in some enlightened parts of the country you can access mental health help by self-referring – you can even do it by email or via a website, if you find the telephone a problem. I was amazed to find out I could do it where I live. It’s not as well known as perhaps it should be, but you can do it. Find out if your area offers a system where you can self-refer, and if it does, take advantage of that. You’ll be dealing with people who understand the process of accessing mental health services.

You will probably have to go through a consultation lasting 45-50 minutes, but that will give you the chance to explain how you feel and put across the issues you’re facing. You might find you have to jump through more hoops – for example, go through a six-week course of cognitive behavioural therapy before you’re considered for anything else – but the good news is, you’re on the path. Once you’re on it, stay on it. And even if one course of therapy ends, you can self refer again as soon as you want. It’s really in your control, which might be a huge relief.

Remember: you’re entitled to help

Perhaps the most important thing to remember if you can, no matter what your feelings are about yourself, is this: you are entitled to get help if you need it. You’re not getting in the way. You’re not taking someone else’s place. You’re not so insignificant that no one can help. You’re not a problem that can’t be solved. You’re not so insignificant, or small, or easily forgotten. There is a way for you to be heard, and be listened to, and helped. However much it might seem that the system is set up to reject you, you are entitled to help. So if you need it, get it. And if you aren’t happy with the first attempt, try again: you’re entitled to a second opinion too.

Written by Steve