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Supporting children and young people with additional support needs

We know that this has been a difficult time for everyone, but children and young people with additional support needs and their parents may have found it particularly challenging. Knowing how to support them during this time has been hard, and you may have some questions about what the extended phased return to school or ELC setting will mean for them.

Going back to school or nursery

Children with additional support needs can go back to school when they reopen unless your GP or healthcare team has advised against it. Children in nursery and childcare settings are also able to go back as and when they reopen. We have more information on our schools reopening FAQ and our nurseries reopening FAQ pages.

You may have concerns about the reopening of schools and childcare settings. Schools and local authorities know that this has been a difficult time and your child may have found it hard over the last few months.

There has been a lot of work done to make sure that every child will continue to receive the ongoing support they need and that it will be delivered safely. Your child’s school or nursery will update you with the plans they have put in place for children with additional support needs .

Each child’s situation is unique and your school or nursery will be happy to talk to you about the support requirements for your child. As with all children, the main focus for teachers and carers of children with additional support needs is to make sure they settle back into education comfortably and happily.

Care provision for children and young people in residential schools

If your child has complex additional support needs and learns and lives in a residential school, they should continue to receive the care and support they require. Their school should be in touch with you directly about what this means for you and your family.

Learning from home

If your child has to spend time learning from home, it’s natural to feel anxious about how this will work out. If your child has additional support needs, their school might put in place extra support to help them learn from home. If you’re concerned about what your child’s school is doing to support them, get in touch straightaway to see what they can do.

If your child has complex additional support needs, you can access a bank of parent-friendly resources put together by Education Scotland, working with a group of Head Teachers. This includes:

  • learning resources for you to use with your child at home
  • guidance and resources to help you understand and support your child with their learning.

You can access these resources here

Resources and support

There are lots of great resources and support out there to help make this time a little easier for you and your family. We’ve included some links to organisations who specialise in helping families who have children with additional support needs.

General information

Enquire – the national advice and information service for additional support for learning – has developed a number of publications with tips for parents on supporting children to return to school. Their section on understanding what the coronavirus changes mean for children with additional support needs in Scotland also has useful information and links to other sources of support, and includes information on schools and nurseries reopening.

Parentzone Scotland has information about identifying and supporting additional support needs and how you can help support your child during the coronavirus pandemic.

Reach has a dedicated back to school section with lots of advice and information to help children and young people during the new few weeks. Reach can also help you understand children’s rights to be supported and involved in decisions so they have an equal chance to flourish in their education.

The Scottish Government has published guidance with signposting to other resources. This includes guidance on supporting disabled children and young people and continuity of learning for children and young people, including those with additional support needs.


Visit the Autism Toolbox for support and resources or download free guides here or the School Closures Toolkit. And remember you can contact The Scottish Autism Helpline on 01259 222 022 for further advice and support.

Education Scotland and the National Autism Implementation Team (NAIT) have developed a range of resources for supporting autistic learners back to school.

Chronic conditions

Teapot Trust offers mental health support for children, young people and families living with chronic conditions by delivering art therapy. Their Art at Home resources page has art videos, relaxation exercises and colouring sheets to download, and they also offer online art therapy sessions.


Dyslexia Scotland offers advice for parents and young people – you can download leaflets on a range of topics here. This video made by one of Dyslexia Scotland’s Young Ambassadors has some useful tips for young people on studying at home, and you can find advice for parents on exams here. Their Dyslexia Unwrapped website offers information and support for young people aged 8 to 18+, including advice on studying. You can also call the Dyslexia Scotland helpline on 0344 800 84 84.

Exceptional healthcare needs

CEN provides a range of educational resources and materials.

Learning disabilities

CALL Scotland provides information and resources to help children and young people to overcome barriers to learning.

Salvesen Mindroom have developed a toolkit to support children and young people with learning disabilities, their families and school staff with preparations for transitioning back to school. 

Sensory behaviour

Download a guide on how to deal with challenging sensory behaviour here.

Speech and language support

Find support and resources on the I CAN website.

Visual impairment

The Royal Blind School offers a wide range of ideas and resources.

Free materials – books, apps and guides

If you’re looking for some helpful materials to help you navigate this difficult period then we’ve added a few links below that might be able to help. These include free books and guides for you and your family.

  • Books For All offers free online text books for learners with a print disability.
  • Call Scotland has visual aids to help your child understand coronavirus.
  • Wigit symbols provide symbolised, up to date news stories and resources which support some school topics, as well as stories and recipes.
  • Singing Hands offers resources in Makaton.
  • Dekko educational comic books are aimed at 8-12-year-olds and teach subjects like Maths, English, French, Biology, History and Geography through funny, colourful narratives. They were created by a young Scottish illustrator who struggled with dyslexia himself at school and developed this method of learning to help other struggling readers.
  • Flamingo Chicks offers free accessible dance classes to keep disabled children moving during lockdown. Linked to the national curriculum, the classes are Makaton signed and with adaptations throughout and include ways you can support children with limited mobility.
  • Teapot Trust can offer free art materials – contact them to find out more.