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Understanding the Special Educational Needs (SEN) of Students: 5 Essential Methods for Caring for Children with SEN

Written by Dr Niki Tracy

Every child has their unique way and pace of learning. However, some children might have a learning process that differs from their peers due to physical, language, emotional, or cognitive development. These children are often categorised as SEN students, denoting Special Educational Needs. As parents, how should we cater for the unique learning needs of SEN students? This article will delve into the characteristics of children with SEN and provide advice for their parents to help them navigate their growth stages smoothly. 

Understanding the Characteristics and Symptoms of Children with SEN

SEN students may face difficulties in various areas, including reading and writing abilities, language comprehension, mathematical concepts, attention spans, social skills, and handling daily life skills. They may need additional learning support or special learning methods to reach their potential. 


The 9 Major Categories of SEN 

There is a wide variety of SEN categories, including: 

  1. Intellectual Disability (ID): This affects a student's thinking, memory, attention, language skills, perceptual motor skills, organisational skills in time and space, and other adaptive abilities. 
  2. Specific Learning Disabilities (SpLD): Dyslexia is a common specific learning difficulty where students, despite having normal intelligence and learning experiences, cannot read and write accurately and fluently. 
  3. Speech and Language Impairment (SLI): These students' language development lags significantly behind their general learning abilities. 
  4. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): Students with autism may face challenges in social interaction, communication, and behaviour. 
  5. Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): These children typically struggle with inattention, hyperactivity, and lack of self-restraint. 
  6. Visual Impairment (VI): These students have impaired vision, including total blindness and low vision. 
  7. Hearing Impairment (HI): These students have impaired hearing, affecting their language and communication abilities. 
  8. Physical Disability (PD): These students have physical disabilities or motor function disorders, restricting daily social and life skills. 
  9. Mental Illness (MI): This includes anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and more serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. 

In Hong Kong, the most common types of SEN include learning disabilities, language impairment, autism, and ADHD. 


SEN Programmes Recognised by the Hong Kong Education Bureau 

In Hong Kong, the Education Bureau provides various support services and resources for SEN students to meet their special learning needs. These include: 

  1. Public schools: Most SEN students in Hong Kong receive mainstream education. The Education Bureau provides a framework titled 'Three-Tier Support Model' for these students, categorising their support needs from mild to severe into three tiers to provide appropriate resources and support. 
  2. Special schools: For students with severe or multiple disabilities, the Education Bureau has special schools offering specialised educational services. These schools have professional teachers and support staff, as well as specific curriculums and facilities to meet these students' particular needs. 
  3. Gifted Education: For gifted or talented students, the Education Bureau provides special curriculums and resources to help them develop their potential. 
  4. Job Counselling Services: For SEN students graduating, the Education Bureau offers job counselling services to help them transition smoothly into the workplace. 

In addition to these learning programmes, the Education Bureau regularly holds parent seminars and workshops to enhance parents' relevant knowledge and skills. 


Advice for Parents of Children with SEN 

  1. Understand and Accept: Understanding and accepting your child's special needs is the first step to supporting them. Each child is unique, and their learning methods and pace of progress will vary. 
  2. Collaborate Closely with Schools: Work closely with teachers and special education coordinators to ensure your child receives the most suitable support and resources. 
  3. Seek Professional Support: If needed, seek professional psychologists, speech therapists, or occupational therapists for professional assessments and treatment. 
  4. Establish a Supportive Home Environment: Creating a supportive and understanding environment at home can significantly help your child's learning and development. 
  5. Take Care of Yourself: As a parent, your physical and mental health is equally important to your child's development. Take time to rest and relax, and seek community resources or join support groups to share experiences with other parents facing similar challenges. 

Caring for children with SEN can bring many challenges. As parents, we need to provide sufficient understanding and support to meet their special learning needs and allow them to reach their full potential. In doing so, children with SEN can shine their unique talents on their life's path, just like any other child. If you have any questions about SEN, feel free to schedule a consultation with our paediatrician, who will provide you with professional advice tailored to your child’s unique needs. 

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  1. SnaildY. SEN Types. 9 Jan 2024 Retrieved from
  2. Sen_parent_c PDF. SEN Leaflet. 9 Jan 2024 Retrieved from
  3. Education Bureau. Special Educational Needs. 9 Jan 2024 Retrieved from

Topics: Hong Kong Kids, Paediatrics

Dr Niki Tracy

Dr Niki Tracy