Supporting students with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND)


This collection is part of a series of bitesize CPD units to support teaching assistants (TAs) with their professional learning journey. These units offer insights into best practice in supporting children and young people, building on the latest evidence base. They are designed to develop knowledge around a range of topics relevant to TAs.

These topics include:

  • Supporting students with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND)
  • Supporting students with English as an Additional Language (EAL)
  • Supporting students to develop literacy and numeracy skills
  • Fostering positive relationships and learning environments
  • Working effectively with teachers, parents and the wider community 
  • Developing effective learners
  • Developing curriculum knowledge 


These CPD units incorporate a range of content types to support professional learning and reflective practice, including:

  • Research summaries and reviews that summarise the latest evidence base
  • Case studies from practising TAs, teachers and school leaders
  • Webinars and video content delivered by leading experts in the field  
  • Reflective questions to support the learning
  • Reading lists signposting further sources and support


Whilst much of the content is from the perspective of researchers, school leaders and teachers, it is both useful and relevant to TAs. Moving forward, we would like to expand our knowledge base by including voices and expertise of TAs. We invite you to use this padlet to begin sharing your reflections, experiences and expertise to support other teaching assistants with their professional learning journey.


Supporting students with SEND

TAs have an important role to play in supporting children and adolescents with a diverse range of additional needs. In 2021, the school workforce census revealed that there were approximately 276,000 TAs working alongside teachers in primary, secondary and SEND schools, making up 28% of the state-funded school workforce (DfE, 2022). Whilst the proportion of teachers in mainstream schools has remained relatively stable over the last decade, the number of TAs has more than trebled since 2000 (EEF, 2021). This significant increase has been partially driven by the push for greater inclusion of students with SEND into mainstream schools, with TAs often providing the means by which this is facilitated (EEF, 2021). Most recently, TAs played a crucial role in supporting students with SEND during the pandemic (Webster et al., 2021) and are now taking a leading role in facilitating interventions to help these students catch up with lost learning (Hall & Webster, 2022). Consequently, this unit aims to support teaching assistants to develop their knowledge of a range of needs and provide the tools to effectively support students in different contexts, phases and subject areas.

The content below explores issues and approaches relating to the four broad areas of SEND including:

  • Communication and interaction needs e.g. Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC)
  • Cognition and learning needs e.g. dyslexia 
  • Social, emotional and mental health difficulties e.g. anxiety
  • Sensory or physical needs e.g. hearing impairment


Moving forward, we hope to build on this knowledge base by drawing on the experience and expertise of TAs supporting students with a range of additional needs.


Department of Education (DfE) (2022) ‘School Workforce in England’ (online) (accessed on 18.10.22)

Education Endowment Fund (EEF) (2021) ‘Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants: Guidance Report’ (online) (accessed on 18.10.22)

Hall, S. & Webster, R. (2022) ‘From Covid to the Cost of Living: The Crises Remaking the Role of the Teaching Assistants’ (online) (accessed on 01.11.22)

Webster, R., Moss, G., Harmey, S. & Bradbury, A. (2021) ‘Unsung Heroes: The role of teaching assistants and classroom assistants in keeping schools functioning during lockdown’ (online) (accessed on 18.10.22)

Case Studies

Hear about approaches used to support students with a range of additional needs. In particular, we invite you to read the first case study written by practising TA, Jo Mead. Hear about her experience supporting a Year 5 student with autism and ADHD and the strategies she adopted to support him, both academically and emotionally.

We acknowledge the majority of case studies are written from the perspective of school leaders and teachers; however, they remain both useful and relevant to TAs. Moving forward, we would like to expand our knowledge base by including the voices and expertise of other practising TAs. 

We invite you to make notes on the approaches taken in these case studies to inform your own next steps and consider how you might apply some of these insights in your setting. 

You could also consider the following questions:

  • What are the current challenges in supporting students with SEND in your classroom and wider school? 
  • Are there any strategies from the learning that could contribute to overcoming these challenges?
An exploration of the benefits of small strategies to improve independence for an autistic child with ADHD in a Year 5 maths lesson
Creating inclusive, supportive learning environments
Supporting autistic girls in schools
Two film and sound reels in black and white.
Lights, camera, action: how we used video to support a student with complex communication needs
|Figure 1 illustrated the UDL instructional planning cycle (Rao and Mao
Marrying ‘universal’ neurodiversity and Universal Design for Learning to enhance inclusive pedagogy: A case study from the primary school geography classroom
A whole-school approach to managing anxiety in children and young people
Creating an inclusive classroom: How best to ensure that all students progress and thrive
Photo by Meagan Carsience on Unsplash
Developing inclusive pedagogy: Some theoretical insights from research evidence
Creating and sustaining an inclusive culture in the primary classroom
Neuromyths about Special Educational Needs: What should teachers know
SEND and the art of detection: An evidence based approach to supporting learners
Taking a long view: Designing curricula for pupils with Down syndrome and other learners with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) working below level 2
How can the secondary mainstream classroom be more inclusive for pupils with ADHD?
Photo by Joe Caione on Unsplash|Pupil attitude to self and school||Comparison of pupil attitudes before and after intervention
A pilot study: What is the impact of daily sessions with a therapy dog on the attitudes of anxious pupils towards school?
Teachers’ understanding of neuromyths: A role for educational neuroscience in teacher training.
Teaching For Neurodiversity: Training Teachers To See Beyond Labels
|FIGURE 1 shows a model of the enabling connected schools project. On the top left a square contains the text: Core concepts from research; Belonging and connectedness
Connecting to school and each other: Towards a new paradigm of a school response to mental health
Photo by Tanzim on Unsplash
Promoting positive mental health and wellbeing in primary schools
Photo by Alex on Unsplash|Figure 1: The Mental Health and Wellbeing Continuum (Rebholz
Pop-up wellbeing spaces: A component of ‘a model of good practice to promote mental health and wellbeing within the secondary school setting’
Photo by Sagar Patil on Unsplash
Empowering SEN children through engaging in the arts
Shaping the space: Learning environment and SEMH

Research Reviews and Summaries

Read the research and evidence that informs best practice in SEND education. Research summaries are short articles that summarise findings from a single research article. Research reviews are longer articles that critically evaluate the evidence on a larger research theme. 

Some of the articles below explore broader approaches to supporting students with SEND, including adopting inclusive pedagogical practices and curating supportive learning environments. Other articles discuss approaches to supporting more specific needs including processing disorders, ADHD and social, emotional and mental health needs (SEMH). We invite you to read the research and consider the following questions:

  • In what ways has this learning resonated with your existing knowledge about students with additional needs or perhaps shifted your thinking? 
  • How might you begin to apply this learning in your context?
I’m not hiding, you just can’t see me: understanding how schools help learners with hidden learning needs
Migrant Children with Special Educational Needs – emerging findings from a recent review and their implications for educational practice
Using Total Communication strategies to support students with Processing Disorders
Refocusing on ADHD in education
Assessment specialist school
The benefits of using the Engagement Profile and Scale in a specialist school
Student maze
Are students with hidden disabilities having their voices heard in education policy?
|Figure 1 shows the Chinese character for mindfulness|Figure 2 shows the Interpretation of the characters including: Eyes
Shinrin-yoku: A potentially effective approach to enhancing mental health and wellbeing
A hand covered in paint
Remote support for children with SEND in the Early Years
Anxiety: Supporting pupil mental health in practice

Reflective questions 

Having engaged with the resources above, reflect on the following questions to develop your knowledge about students with additional needs and how to support them in your school setting.

  • In what ways has this learning resonated with your existing knowledge about students with additional needs or perhaps shifted your thinking? 
  • What are the specific needs of the students you work with? How are you currently supporting these students?
  • Are you aware of your students’ EHCP targets or SEND support plan targets? How might you work with your classroom teacher to achieve these?
  • Are there any whole-school approaches in place to support students with SEND in your context? How effective are these approaches at supporting these students?
  • How could you work with your classroom teacher and/or SENDCo to improve SEND support in your classroom?
  • How does your school communicate with parents of students with SEND? Are there any strategies from the learning that could improve this approach?
  • What areas would you like to prioritise learning more about?

Further Content

We invite you to further your learning journey by engaging with the reading list and video content below. The reading list provides a wealth of articles, reports, guidance and resources to further support your professional learning. The video content includes webinars and video interviews with leading experts in the field, providing further insight into best practice when supporting children and young people with SEND.

Decorative image of glasses on an open notebook
Supporting students with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND): Selected reading
The Future of Teaching: SEND review
Webinar: Working memory and executive functions and SEND: Implications for learning
Supporting pupil wellbeing and mental health remotely, Dr. Sue Roffey
Webinar: How to support all learners Part 1: SEND
Webinar: How can we use differentiation to maximise student learning?
Considerations for pupils with additional needs as we navigate COVID-19
Decorative image of crayons
High-quality interactions and supporting young children with SEND
Anxiety – Pedagogy in practice
Case Study: An exploration of the benefits of small strategies to improve independence for an autistic child with ADHD in a Year 5 maths lesson.