Social, Emotional and Mental Health

Within the SEND code of practice, social, emotional and mental health is defined as follows:

Paragraph 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 These may include becoming withdrawn or isolated, as well as displaying challenging, disruptive or disturbing behaviour.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.’


Paragraph 6.33

‘Schools and colleges should have clear processes to support children and young people, including how they will manage the effect of any disruptive behaviour so it does not adversely affect other pupils.’


The SEN Code of Practice (2015) no longer includes ‘behaviour’ as part of this category of need. The reasoning is that a child’s behaviour is perceived as a communication about the child’s state of mind and may be caused by a variety of factors such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Sensory overload
  • Anger, including anger about pervasive life situations or undisclosed difficulties
  • Response to trauma or attachment difficulties
  • Frustration due to speech and communication difficulties
  • Response to the wrong level of challenge in lessons
  • Grief
  • Overwhelm
  • Physical pain or discomfort, such as hunger
  • Underlying mental health problems
  • Undisclosed physical, mental or sexual abuse

This list is illustrative, not exhaustive.


Useful Websites include:

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