Skip to main content

Jargon Buster

Professionals can sometimes use language, phrases, abbreviations and acronyms that are difficult for parents, carers and young people to understand.  Sometimes acronyms or abbreviations may mean different things across two different sectors / professional bodies, which could lead to unnecessary confusion.  As a result we have produced the guide below which explains some common terms, phrases and abbreviations which will hopefully help you to understand some of the terminology used.

If you cannot find what you are looking for, please use the 'Contact Us' tab at the top of the page, to let us know what words or phrases you are unsure of.  We will find out for you, let you know and then publish the answer, which in turn will help other people. 

Click the sections below to see the definitions for each letter.  


Academy: is a state-funded school in England that is directly funded by the Department for Education, through the Education Funding Agency.  Academies are self-governing and independent of local authority control.  They are still bound by all Special Educational Needs (SEN) legislation and guidance.

ADD: Attention deficity disorder.  This term has now been replaced with ADHD as 'hyperactivity' was added to the name.

ADHD:  Attention Deficity Hyperactivity Disorder.

Advocate: someone who can speak on your behalf, express your views and wishes, and ensure that your rights, concerns and needs are acted upon.  Advocates act only according to the wishes of the person they are speaking for.  They do not take their own view of what is best, or try to influence the person to make a different choice.

Annual Review: is the review of an Education Health and Care plan which the local authority must make every 12 months (as a minimum).

ASD: Autistic spectrum disorder.

Assessment: see Needs Assessment.

Audiologist: a Health professional who specialises in identifying and treating hearing and balance disorders.


BESD - Behaviour Emotional and Social Difficulties

BSL- British Sign Language


CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services):  assess and treat children and young people up to the age of 17 with emotional, behavioural or mental health difficulties.

Care Plan: a record of health and/or social care services that are being provided to a child or young person to help them manage a disability or health condition.  The Plan is agreed with the child's parent/carer or the young person and may be contained within a patient's medial record or maintained as a separate document.

Care and Support Assessment: when you are asked some questions about your day-to-day life to work out what you need.

Care Act 2014: replaces most current law regarding carers and people being cared for. It outlines the way in which local authorities should carry out carer’s assessments and needs assessments; how local authorities should determine who is eligible for support; the new obligations on local authorities; and how local authorities should charge for both residential care and community care.

Carer: a person who is looking after a child or young person but who isn't their birth parent.

Carer's Assessment: discuss how being a carer affects your life, identify any changes to be made and how to be supported to achieve these.

CCG - Clinical Commissioning Groups: are groups of professionals that work together to commission health services in a particular area. 

CoP - Code of Practice: a document issued by the government that schools, early years settings and local authorities have to follow when identifying and meeting the needs of children and young people with SEND.

CQC - Care Quality Commission: the independent regulator of health and social care in England

CYP: children and young people.


DDA - Disability Discrimination Act.  This was replaced in England, Scotland and Wales by the Equality Act in 2010.

Developmental delay:  a delay in reaching the normal stages of development.

DfE - Department for Education: the government department that is responsible for education and children's services in England.

Differentiation: adaptations that teachers make to lessons in order to suit the learning needs of groups or individual children within the class.

Direct Payments: are cash payments which allow you to organise care services yourself, enabling you to choose the services that are appropriate. Some people use the money to buy care from an agency whilst others will directly employ their own staff, e.g. personal assistants.  You have to have had an assessment by the local authority which shows that care services should be provided.  The payment must be sufficient to enable users to purchase services to meet their needs and the money must be spent on services that meet the outcomes and services as laid out in the EHC plan.  

Disagreement Resolution: Local authorities must provide access to independent disagreement resolution to help parents and young people resolve disputes with local authorities, schools and other settings about Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) duties and provision.

DLA -  Disability Living Allowance. 

DoH: Department of Health.


EAL: English as an Additional Language.

Educational Psychologist (EP): a professional employment by the local authority to assess a child or young person's special educational needs and to give advice to schools and settings on how the child's needs can be met.  This role is sometimes referred to as an Ed Psych. 

EHC Plan - Education, Health and Care plan: details the education, health and social care support that is to be provided to a child or young person who has special educational needs or a disability.  It is drawn up by the local authority, parents/carers and young person after an EHC needs assessment of the child or young person has determined that an EHC plan is necessary, and after consultation with relevant partner agencies.  EHC Plans replaced Statements of Special Educational Needs in September 2014.   

EHC Needs Assessment: an education, health and care assessment, caried out by the local authority, to determine whether a child or young person needs an EHC plan. 

Equality Act - a law that protects people against discrimination, harassment or victimisation in employment and as users of private and public services.

Extra Care: alternative to living in a care home for people aged 55+ who need some care and support.  It is designed primarily with the needs of older people in mind with care and support available on site and provides independent living in the community.

EYFS - Early Years Foundation Stage: the statutory framework that all schools and Ofsted registered early years providers must follow which sets the standards for learning, development and care of children from birth to 5 years.


FE: Further Education

First Tier Tribunal (SEN and disability): is a legal body which hears appeals from parents of children with SEN, and young people with SEN, about EHC needs assessments and EHC plans.

FIS: Families Information Service


Global delay: a general delay in acquiring normal developmental milestones.

GP: General Practitioner, also known as Family Doctor.


HE: Higher Education

HI: Hearing Impairment

HV: Health Visitor


IASS: a statutory service that provides information, advice and support to disabled children and young people , and those with SEN, and their parents. 

IEP: Individual Education Plan.

IPSEA: Independent Parental Support Education Advice. A registered charity offering free and independent legally based information, advice and support to help children and young people get the right education.


Key Working: a way of working which provides children, young people and parents with a single point of contact known as a lead professional to help make sure the support they receive is co-ordinated.

Key Stages: the different stages of education that a child passes through

  • Early Years Foundation Stage - age 0-5 - Nursery and Reception
  • KS One - age 5-7 - Years 1 & 2
  • KS Two - age 7 - 11 - Years 3, 4, 5 and 6
  • KS Three - age 11 -14 - Years 7, 8 and 9
  • KS Four - age 14 - 16 - Years 10 and 11
  • KS Five - age 16+ - Sixth form or college


LAC: Looked After Child/ren

Lead Professional:  a person who is identified as a single point of contact for a child, young person and their family to help make sure that the support they receive is co-ordinated.  The lead professional could be from the local authority, local health organisation, school, college or setting, or voluntary, community or private and independent sector.

Learning difficulties: problems or conditions which make it harder for a person to learn than it is for others.

Local Authority (LA): the local government body responsible for providing services including education.

Local Offer: information set out by each Local Authority about provision they expect to be available across education, health and social care for children and young people in their area who have SEND, including those who do not have Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans.  Local authorities must consult locally on what provision the Local Offer should contain.

Loan Shark: a moneylender who charges extremely high rates of interest, typically under illegal conditions.

LSA or TA: Learning Support Assistant or Teaching Assistant - non-teaching staff who work with children with special educational needs in the classroom.


Maintained School: a school that is funded by the local authority.

Mainstream School: a school that provides education for all children, whether or not they have special educational needs or disabilities.

Makaton: a language programme designed to provide a means of communication to children and young people who cannot communicate efficiently by speaking.

Mediation: is a service commissioned by local authorities designed to help settle disagreements between parents or young people and local authorities over decisions on EHC needs assessments or the special educational elements of a plan.  Parents and young people can use this service before deciding whether to appeal to the First-Tier Tribunal.  Mediation can cover any one or all three elements of an EHC plan and must be offered when the final plan is issued, however appeals cannot be made to the Tribunal about the health and social care aspects of the plan.

MLD: Moderate learning difficulties.


National Curriculum: the programmes of study and attainment targets for children's education, for all subjects at all stages.

Needs Assessment: finding out what a child or young person can or cannot do by observing them at school and sometimes at home or by talking with people who know the child well.

NEET: Not in Education Employment or Training.

NHS Continuing Care: is support provided for children and young people under 18 who need a tailored package of care because of their disability, an accident or illness.

NHS Continuing Health Care: is the name given to a package of care that is arranged and funded solely by the NHS for individuals aged 18 and over who are not in hospital but have complex ongoing healthcare needs.  It can be provided in any setting, for example in the home or in a residential care home.

NHS England: is an independent body, at arm's length to the government and held to account through the NHS Mandate.  It oversees the budget, planning, delivery and day-to-day operation of the commissioning side of the NHS in England. Its main role is to improve outcomes and drive up the quality of care. 

NHS Mandate: is issued by the government to NHS England.  It sets out the government's ambition for the National Health Service and provides direction to NHS England.  The Mandate is reviewed annually.

Nursing Care: accommodation and help with personal care, others offer nursing care as well.  A care home registered to provide personal care will offer support, ensuring basic personal needs are taken care of. Some care homes are registered to provide nursing care and these are often referred to as nursing homes.


OT - Occupational Therapist:  a health professional trained to give advice on equipment, adaptations and activities to support the learning / social development of children, young people and adults with physical, emotional, sensory or behavioural difficulties.

Ofsted - Office for Standards in Education: the inspection team that visits and inspects schools, childcare providers and local authorities.

Outcome: a description of the difference that will be made to an individual as a result of special educational or other provision.  It should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and within a set timescale.


Paediatrician: a doctor who deals with the medial care of infants, children and young people for birth up to 18.

PALS: Patient Advice and Liaison Service.

Parent Carer Forum:  is a group of parents and carers of disabled children and young people who meet regularly to support each other through the journey of getting the best outcomes for their children and young people.  Members of the group also work with local authorities, education, health and other providers to make sure the services they plan and deliver meet the needs of disabled children and their families.   

PECS - Picture Exchange Communication System: is a form of alternative and augmentative communication in which a child is taught to communicate with an adult by giving them a card with a picture on it. 

Person Centred: a way of working that makes sure a child or young person and their family are central to and involved in all aspects of planning and decision-making with the professionals and services working with them.

Personal Budget: is an amount of money identified by the local authority to deliver provision identified in an EHC plan where the parent or young person is involved in securing that provision.  The funds can be held directly by the parent or young person, or may be held and managed on their behalf by the local authority, school, college or other organisation. 

Personalisation: the provision of tailored care and support to individuals based on their needs and choices they make about how they live their lives.

PIP - Personal Independence Payment: a new benefit replacing DLA for those over 16.  PIP helps with some of the extra costs caused by long-term ill-health or a disability.  It is being phased in over the next few years.

Physiotherapist: a health service professional who helps people who have physical disabilities.  They can help your child with exercises or maybe provide specialist equipment.

PMLD: profound and multiple learning difficulties.

Portage: home based pre-school education for children with developmental delay, disabilities or any other speical educational needs.  Portage home visitors work in partnership with parents, helping parent to help their child through learning activities within the home.

PfA - Preparing for Adulthood: is a National programme providing knowledge and support to local authorities and their partners, including families and young people, so they can ensure disabled young people achieve paid work, independent living, good health and community inclusion as they move into adulthood.

PMLD: Profound and multiple Learning Disability.  Refers to people with more than one disability including severe learning disabilities.

PRU - Pupil Referral Unit: a specialist school run by the local authority which provides education for children who cannot attend a conventional school.  Includes children with behavioural or medical problems.


Reasonable adjustments: are changes schools and other settings are required to make to ensure children and young people with special educational needs and/or disability are not substantially disadvantaged.  This could include: changes to physical features, for example, creating a ramp so that students can enter a classroom or providing extra support and aids such as speicialist teachers or equipment.

Residential Care: accommodation and help with personal care, some offer nursing care as well.  A care home registered to provide personal care will offer support, ensuring basic personal needs are taken care of. Some care homes are registered to provide nursing care and these are often referred to as nursing homes.

Respite: a short period of rest or relief


SALT or SLT: Speech and Language Therapy is a service which assesses and treats people of all ages who have a range of disorders of communication, eating, drinking or swallowing.

SCC: Sunderland City Council.

SEBD: Social, emotional and behavioural difficulties.

SEMH: Social, emotional and mental health difficulties.

SEN Information Report: all schools must publish on their websites information about their policy and arrangements for supporting children and young people with SEN.  The schools are also required to keep this information up to date. 

SEN Support: is any help for children and young people with special educational needs that is additional to or different from the support generally made for other children of the same age.  The purpose of SEN Support is to help children achieve the outcomes or learning objectives that have been set for them by the school.  Schools should involve parents in this process.  SEN Support replaces Early Years Action/Action Plus and School Action/Action Plus.

SENCo - Special Needs Co-Ordination: the person in a school responsible for co-ordinating provision for pupils with SEN.  All schools are required to have a SENCo.

SEND: special educational needs and disability.

SEND Code of Practice: came info force on 1st September 2014, replacing the previous code. The Code is statutory guidance that details the required SEND provision, by law, which schools and local authorities are expected to follow.

SENDIASS: Special Educational Needs and Disability Information, Advice and Support Service - independent information and advice service for families with a child with SEND aged 0 - 25 and for young people themselves up the the age of 25.  This service was previously known as the Parent Partnership Service.

SEND Tribunal: The First-tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability) is a legal body which hears appeals from parents of children with special educational needs, and young people with SEN about decisions made by the local authority regarding Education, Health and Care (EHC) Needs Assessments and Education, Health and Care Plans.

Sheltered Housing: aimed at people 55+ who are generally able to do most things for themselves.  If assistance with day to day tasks is needed, it can be arranged.

Short Breaks: a range of activities provided by the local authority for children and young people with disabilities and /or additional needs and their families to access throughout the year.

Smoking Cessation: help tand support o stop smoking,

Special Educational Needs (SEN): A child or young person has SEN if they have a learning difficulty or disability which calls for special educational provision to be made for him or her. A child of compulsory school age or a young person has a learning difficulty or disability if he or she has a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others of the same age, or has a disability which prevents or hinders him or her from making use of educational facilities of a kind generally provided for others of the same age in mainstream schools or mainstream post 16 institutions.

Special School: a school catering for students who have special educational needs due to severe learning difficulties.

SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulties: affects one or more particular aspect of learning.  For example, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, and Dyspraxia.

Statutory Guidance: guidance that local authorities and other local bodies have legal duty to follow.

Supported Living: supported living services can help if you don't want to live in residential care but you're finding it difficult to cope at home.  They're a combination of suitable or adapted accommodation – which can be your own home – with some forms of personal care (like help with washing or cooking).


Transition Plan: a plan that all local authorities must publish that explains when and how Statements of Special Educational Need will be transferred to the new system of Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plans, as well as information for young people in further education and training who receive support as a result of a Learning Difficulty Assessment (LDA).

Transition: is a time of change which could be at particular points during a child's education for example moving from primary to secondary school, or a move between services, for example moving from children's services to adult services.

Tribunal: an independent body that determines appeals by parents or young people against LA decisions on EHC needs assessment and EHC plans.  Also see First Tier Tribunals.

TAC: Team Around the Child.

TAF: Team Around the Family.

TFC: Together for Children.  The Company that delivers Children's Services in Sunderland on behalf of Sunderland City Council.

Back to top