New website to improve understanding of SEN children's needs

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A three-year project aims to make it easier for early years practitioners to support children with special educational needs and disabilities.


The new online tool aims to make it easier to support children's needs

Dr Susana Castro and Dr Olympia Palikara from the University of Roehampton’s School of Education are leading the project in the UK, which has received 380,000 euros in funding from the European Commission.

The team will be working alongside colleagues in Germany, Austria, Italy, Turkey and Macedonia to develop a new website tool based on the World Health Organisation’s classifications for disability and impairments.

Dr Castro said that the ICF could help professionals in early childhood settings implement recent changes to SEN legislation, because it provides much more detailed information than a general diagnosis.

The new ICF-MedUse online tool the team is developing will be based on the ICF (International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health), which was developed by the WHO.

The new online tool will make the ICF classification easy to navigate by allowing professionals to input individual children’s profiles to help practitioners work out the support they need.

It will integrate all the ICF codes and development guidelines to help settings develop EHC plans and make multi-agency working much easier.

It has been developed out of a need for all those working in children’s services to ‘speak a common language’ in measuring and classifying children’s needs and will be accessible to nursery and school staff, and other agencies in social and health care.

According to Dr Castro, the ICF system is widely used in settings in Germany, Portugal and many other countries.

‘It’s not well-known in the UK at all,’ she said. ‘We’re pushing towards the inclusion of the ICF because the idea is in line with special educational needs policy, for example Education and Health Care Plans (EHCP) are very much aligned with the idea of the ICF.’

It will be designed so that users can easily input information and receive a detailed description of a child’s abilities and needs in their daily routines, and plan interventions to support them.

Dr Palikara said, ‘Professionals working with children on a day-to-day basis require a common language in order to describe and meet their needs across the sectors of education, health and social care in a form that can be understood by all.

‘There is a well-documented need for professionals to work more closely together, but until we launched this project, there were limited specific resources available to help us describe a child’s individual functioning profile within a team of professionals. The development of the ICF-MedUse tool will address this gap.’                                                                   

In terms of the information that this would provide, Dr Castro said that, for example, ‘You can have two children with the same diagnosis, e.g. autism or Down’s Syndrome, but they may have completely different behavioural patterns. One could be good at instigating social interaction with peers, and another not.’

A pilot study training practitioners in early years settings on how to use the tool will start in 2017.

For more information on the project visit


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