Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people. It also affects how they make sense of the world around them. It is a spectrum condition, which means that, while all people with autism share certain difficulties, their condition will affect them in different ways. Some people with autism are able to live relatively independent lives but others may have accompanying learning difficulties and need a lifetime of specialist support. People with autism may also experience over or under sensitivity to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light or colours.
Aspergers Syndrome is a form of autism (although the term Aspergers is no longer being used at the point of diagnosis, you may still come across it). People with Asperger syndrome are often of average or above average intelligence. They have fewer problems with speech but may still have difficulties with understanding and processing language.
Behavioural, emotional and social difficulties (BESD)
Pupils with BESD cover the full range of ability and a continuum of severity. Their behaviours present a barrier to learning and persist despite the implementation of an effective school behaviour policy and personal/social curriculum. They may be withdrawn or isolated, disruptive, hyperactive and lack concentration, have immature social skills or present challenging behaviours.
Pupils with dyslexia have a marked and persistent difficulty in learning to read, write and spell, despite progress in other areas. Pupils may have poor reading comprehension, handwriting and punctuation. They may also have difficulties in concentration and organisation and in remembering sequences of words. They may mispronounce common words or reverse letters and sounds in words.
Pupils with dyspraxia are affected by an impairment or immaturity of the organisation of movement, often appearing clumsy. Gross and fine motor skills are hard to learn and difficult to retain and generalise. Pupils may have poor balance and co-ordination and may be hesitant in many actions (running, skipping, hopping, holding a pencil, doing jigsaws, etc). Their articulation may also be immature and their language late to develop. They may also have poor awareness of body position and poor social skills.
Hearing impairment (HI)
Pupils with a hearing impairment range from those with a mild hearing loss to those who are profoundly deaf. They cover the whole ability range. For educational purposes, pupils are regarded as having a hearing impairment if they require hearing aids, adaptations to their environment and/or particular teaching strategies in order to access the concepts and language of the curriculum. A number of pupils with a hearing impairment also have an additional disability or learning difficulty. Hearing loss may be because of conductive or sensory-neural problems and can be measured on a decibel scale. Four categories are generally used: mild, moderate, severe and profound. Some pupils with a significant loss, communicate through sign instead of, or as well as, speech.
Visual impairment (VI)
Visual impairment refers to a range of difficulties from partial sight through to blindness. Pupils with visual impairments cover the whole ability range. For educational purposes, a pupil is considered to be VI if they require adaptations to their environment or specific differentiation of learning materials in order to access the curriculum; for example, the need for larger texts in a reading books.
Moderate learning difficulty (MLD)
Pupils with moderate learning difficulties will have attainments significantly below expected levels in most areas of the curriculum, despite appropriate interventions. Their needs will not be able to be met by normal differentiation and the flexibilities of the National Curriculum. They should only be recorded as MLD if additional educational provision is being made to help them to access the curriculum. Pupils with moderate learning difficulties have much greater difficulty than their peers in acquiring basic literacy and numeracy skills and in understanding concepts. They may also have associated speech and language delay, low self-esteem, low levels of concentration and under-developed social skills.
Multi- sensory impairment (MSI)
Pupils with multi-sensory impairment have a combination of visual and hearing difficulties. Many also have additional disabilities but their complex needs mean that it may be difficult to ascertain their intellectual abilities. Pupils with multi-sensory impairment have much greater difficulties in accessing the curriculum and the environment than those with a single sensory impairment. They have difficulties in perception, communication and in the acquisition of information. Incidental learning is limited. The combination can result in high anxiety and multi-sensory deprivation. Pupils need teaching approaches which make good use of their residual hearing and vision, together with their other senses. They may need alternative means of communication.
Physical Disability (PD)
There are a number of medical conditions associated with physical disability which can impact on mobility. These include cerebral palsy, heart disease, spina bifida, hemiplegia and hydrocephalus, muscular dystrophy. Pupils with physical disabilities may also have sensory impairments, neurological problems or learning difficulties. Some pupils are mobile but have significant fine motor difficulties which require support. Others may need augmentative or alternative communication aids. Having a physical disability does not always mean the child will also have a learning difficulty.
Profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD) also referred to as global difficulties
Pupils with profound and multiple learning difficulties have complex needs in several areas. In addition to very severe learning difficulties, pupils have other significant difficulties, such as physical disabilities, sensory impairment or a severe medical condition. Pupils require a high level of adult support, both for their learning needs and also for their personal care. They are likely to need sensory stimulation and a curriculum broken down into very small steps. Some pupils communicate by gesture, eye pointing or symbols, others by very simple language. Their attainments are likely to remain in the early P scale range (P1-P5) throughout their school careers (that is below level 1 of the National Curriculum).
Severe learning difficulty (SLD)
Pupils with severe learning difficulties have significant intellectual or cognitive impairments. This has a major effect on their ability to participate in the school curriculum without support. They may also have difficulties in mobility and co-ordination, communication and perception and the acquisition of self-help skills. Pupils with severe learning difficulties will need support in all areas of the curriculum. They may also require teaching of self-help, independence and social skills. Some pupils may use sign and symbols but most will be able to hold simple conversations. Their attainments may be within the upper P scale range (P4-P8) for much of their school careers. This is below the national average.
Speech language and communication difficulties
Pupils with speech, language and communication needs cover the whole ability range. Pupils with SLCN may have difficulty in understanding and/or making others understand information conveyed through spoken language. Their acquisition of speech and their oral language skills may be significantly behind their peers. Their speech may be poor or intelligible.