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We know that looking for the right early learning and childcare (ELC) provider when your wee one has additional support needs can feel really daunting. But all settings offering funded entitlement have to meet certain criteria, including one on inclusion, so there are lots of fantastic providers that are ready to offer the care and support that your child needs. Put simply, if your child is going to attend, or already attends, a local authority or partnership nursery, they have the right to additional support to meet their needs.

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What do local authorities have to do?

Local authorities also have a number of legal duties in relation to additional support needs. They have to assess children under the age of 3 who need, or may need, additional support as the result of a disability. Usually a health professional will refer your child to the local authority for assessment, after discussion with you. You also have the right to refer your child for assessment yourself. If your child does need extra support, the local authority must provide support that meets their needs.

Local authorities also have to identify the additional support needs of children whose education they are responsible for. This includes children in funded ELC, who already attend (or are about to start attending) a local authority or partnership nursery.  You have the right to ask for your child to be assessed at this stage to find out if they have additional support needs. You can do this through the nursery or by contacting your local authority directly. You might want to talk to the nursery staff, your health visitor or GP first about this. 

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In this video, mum Keren Wyllie explains how the 1140 hours benefits her daughter Runa, who has complex support needs.

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Here, Keyworker Deborah Laird talks about how she supports Runa at nursery, to give her the best possible experience.

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What should I look for when selecting a setting?

Choosing the right setting is a big decision for any parent and if you have a child with additional support needs, there are even more things that you’ll want to consider. If you want to get a feel for a place you’re thinking about, then visiting it is a really good way to rule it in or out. So, if this is something you’d like to do, below are some questions you might find helpful to ask when you’re there:

  1. Do they have any experience of supporting a child with similar needs to your child?
  2. What type of support would be available to help your child? Will they create an Individual Education Plan if my child needs one?
  3. Do any of the staff in the settings have specialist training to support children with specific needs?
  4. Do they have access to any specialist staff such as speech and language therapists, educational psychologists or nurses?
  5. How will they keep you updated about how your child is doing or if there are any difficulties?
  6. Would the setting require any adaptations to the physical environment to ensure your child could be fully included?
  7. How does it feel when you first enter? Does it feel positive and welcoming? Could you imagine your child feeling happy there?

Click here for some other questions you might also find helpful to consider.

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Getting the right support

You might still be trying to get your head around what additional support for learning is exactly. Well, you don’t have to work it all out by yourself as Enquire is the Scottish advice service for additional support for learning and can help you with any questions you have by calling 0345 123 2303 or visiting Enquire's website.

Enquire also has an Early Learning and Childcare factsheet that you might find useful.

You can also ask your local authority to check whether your child has additional support needs and can find out more on Enquire’s Assessment factsheet.

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