What Does ‘Additional Learning Needs (ALN)’ Mean?
Children and young people with Additional Learning Needs may need more support to learn than the majority of children and young people of the same age. Some may have a disability which prevents or hinders them from making use of the educational facilities provided for learners. About one in four children and young people may have Additional Learning Needs at some time.
All children and young people learn at different rates and will have different events going on in their lives that can also affect their rate of learning.
All schools, settings, colleges and Local Authorities must support all children and young people, including those who have ALN or who may have ALN. For some children and young people, these difficulties are short–term; others may have Additional Learning Needs throughout their school or college life. Some will have Additional Learning Needs in particular areas of their education, whilst others may need help with all or most aspects of their education.
One of the principles of the ALN Code (see below) is inclusive education where children and young people are supported to participate fully in mainstream education, wherever feasible, and a whole setting approach is taken to meet the needs of learners with ALN.
The Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal Act (2018) – the ALNET ACT- says a child or young person aged 3 to 16 years has Additional Learning Needs if he or she:
A child under compulsory school age (0 to 3 years) has a learning difficulty or disability if he or she is, or would be if no additional learning provision were made, when of compulsory school age
The way children and young people with ALN are supported in Wales is changing. This means from September 2021 there will be new legislation from Welsh Government and this will be implemented over a 3 year transformation process
What role do children, their parents, and young people have in the process of identifying and supporting ALN in the new system?
The new system puts the learner at the heart of everything that happens, and schools colleges and local authorities must take a person-centred approach to planning for and supporting children and young people.
This means that the views, wishes and feelings of children and their parents, and young people must be considered at all stages- this means families must be given a voice in the way children’s needs are identified, assessed and supported throughout their time in schools and settings.
Types of ALN
There is a wide spectrum of Additional Learning Needs that your child or young person may have, and these may change and develop over time. Often the areas of need overlap, or in some instances your child’s needs relate directly to one particular area of learning. Generally, children and young people will have needs which may fall into at least one of four areas, many children will have inter-related needs. This section describes the types of Additional Learning Needs.
Communication and interaction
Children and young people with Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN) have difficulty in communicating with others. This may be because they have difficulty saying what they want to, understanding what is being said to them or they do not understand or use social rules of communication. The profile for every child with SLCN is different and their needs may change over time. They may have difficulty with one, some or all of the different aspects of speech, language or social communication at different times of their lives.
Children and young people with ASD, including Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism, are likely to have particular difficulties with social interaction. They may also experience difficulties with language, communication and imagination, which can impact on how they relate to others.
Cognition and learning
Support for learning difficulties may be required when children and young people learn at a slower pace than their peers, even with appropriate differentiation*. Learning difficulties cover a wide range of needs, including Moderate Learning Difficulties (MLD), Severe Learning Difficulties (SLD), where children are likely to need support in all areas of the curriculum and associated difficulties with mobility and communication, through to Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties (PMLD), where children are likely to have severe and complex learning difficulties as well as a physical disability or sensory impairment.
Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD), affect one or more specific aspects of learning. This encompasses a range of conditions such as dyslexia, dyscalculia and dyspraxia.
*Not all children develop at the same rate. Some find learning easy and develop quicker; whilst others struggle with certain tasks or skills and develop at a slower rate. Therefore, each child is set work that is directed at his or her own level or ability. This is called ‘Differentiated’ Learning.
Social, emotional and mental health difficulties
Children and young people may experience a wide range of social and emotional difficulties which manifest themselves in many ways. These may include becoming withdrawn or isolated, as well as displaying challenging, disruptive or disturbing behaviour. These behaviours may reflect underlying mental health difficulties such as anxiety or depression, self-harming, substance misuse, eating disorders or physical symptoms that are medically unexplained. Other children and young people may have disorders such as attention deficit disorder, attention deficit hyperactive disorder or attachment disorder.
Sensory and / or physical needs
Some children and young people require additional educational provision because they have a disability which prevents or hinders them from making use of the educational facilities generally provided. These difficulties can be age related and may fluctuate over time. Many children and young people with Vision Impairment (VI), Hearing Impairment (HI) or a Multi-Sensory Impairment (MSI) will require specialist support and/or equipment to access their learning, or habilitation support*. Children and young people with an MSI have a combination of vision and hearing difficulties.
* Some children and young people with a Physical Disability (PD) require additional ongoing support and equipment to access all the opportunities available to their peers.