20 tips for working with SEND students

Author: Lorna Smith
Published: 17/08/2020


  1. Ensure you find out as much as possible about the different needs of each student you are working with as your starting point.
  2. Be aware that the pace of the class might be too fast for students with SEND because they may need more time to process language.
  3. Don’t underestimate how long some things will take. Recognise that students with learning difficulties may take up to three times longer to learn and will tire quickly. They have to try harder, which can be exhausting.
  4. Differentiate your expectations of what SEND students should produce, how long they should concentrate and how much they should try by themselves before they seek assistance.
  5. Taking risks is one of the most difficult areas for students with special needs: the fear of embarrassment is strong. Look at your strategies for dealing with incorrect answers. You could use alternatives such as 'You have raised a very interesting point' or 'Thank you, I hadn't thought of that...'
  6. Don’t speak too quickly. Some students with SEND have difficulty following and processing fast speech. Remember that tasks that seem simple to you may be complex for SEND students.
  7. When giving instructions, don’t expect the student to listen and do simultaneously. For example, note-taking can be extremely difficult for some. 
  8. Build up a bank of resources for individual students with SEND. This will not be your last student with this type of SEND, and you will be more prepared for the next.
  9. Print out a copy of your register and use colour-coding to help remember specific needs of students (e.g. green = problems with language processing, blue = difficulties with attention span, etc.). Your SEND/Inclusion coordinator may already have this in place as a whole-school response to equality and inclusion issues – find out!
  10. Have the same information preSENted in different ways – for instance, key words and phrases could be shown on the board, displayed on posters on the walls, etc. You'll be catering for many learning styles and making your message unmissable!

Download all 20 tips for working with SEND students. 

Lorna Smith

Lorna Smith is Senior Lecturer in Education at the University of Bristol.