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Social, Emotional and Mental Health Needs - Graduated Approach

Special Educational Needs and Disability

The SEND Code of Practice states:

6.32 - 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 These may include becoming withdrawn or isolated as well as displaying challenging disruptive or disturbing behaviour.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. 


The term "individual" is used to refer to the child, young person or young adult experiencing social, emotional and mental health difficulties. 

The following guiding principles underlie this graduated approach to Social, Emotional and Mental Health needs: 

  • Behaviour is how individuals communicate how they feel.  It is usually best to start by listening to and working with the underlying feelings.
  • Individuals want to be listened to and accepted.
  • Individuals do not set out to be problems but to solve them.  Behaviour is often a maladaptive way of solving problems
  • Inappropriate classroom behaviour is often communicating anxiety such as anxiety over relationships, not being able to do the work or things that are going on outside the class.  Anxiety may be secondary to any of the other areas of special educational needs identified in this approach.
  • Individuals are far more likely to be able to change if they have identified the need to change themselves and have some ownership of the solutions.
  • It is generally easier to learn to do more of what is wanted or more of something at which they have already been successful than less of what is not wanted and at which individuals have already failed.

This is a broad area of need and judgement should be used as to which descriptors best apply and which from the long list of suggested approaches are most likely to address which difficulties in the context of the school.


Find out more:

Trafford's Graduated Approach: Social, Emotional and Mental Health Needs

Resources: Social, Emotional and Mental Health Needs

Trafford's Graduated Approach to Assistive Technology