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under5s - Hidden Special or Additional Needs
Hidden Special or Additional Needs

You may not think that the child in your care has special needs - but perhaps they have and they are hidden from view. We are not perhaps talking about the obvious special needs - that we as a society are most familiar - but special needs that may affect a child for only a short period of time, one that is not necessarily recognised by health professionals, but one that in the short term effects how your child learns, behaves and interacts with the world.

Children who have hidden special needs, or short term needs may just require more of your time, understanding, attention and support than usual - they may be seeking your reassurance that it is OK, a normal stage of development and that you are there to help and support them in their early years.

There are a huge variety of factors that can cause a child to have additional special needs - some are shorter term than others. Perhaps if you think of all the young children you know, either in your early years setting, or as a parent think of your own child over a period of three years or so, and I am sure that you will begin to acknowledge that some of the time your child had additional needs.

As a parent or early years practitioner, the more other adults in that child's life are aware of their needs, however insignificant they may appear, then the more support and encouragement can be given to that child. There are many more hidden/additional abilities than those listed below, these just highlight a few!

  • A Child with Glue ear, or an ear infection 
    • They may need reduced background sound to decrease distractions, and may need you to check that they understand what the task is that they should be doing. Glue ear fluctuates, and therefore their hearing difficulties may improve or get worse.
  • A child may have witnessed inappropriate behaviour (fighting, swearing etc) 
    • They may need reassurance, be educated about what is appropriate in your setting and be shown positive role models.
  • A child may be moving home, parents may be going through divorce, separation, or leaving the family home. 
    • The child may need reassurance, e.g. familiar routines and stories that help them realise that this happens to other children. They may need time and the opportunity to act out their feelings in the role play area.
  • There may have been an argument at home 
    • This may have unsettled the child, perhaps they need reassurance that Mum/Dad still love them and will be back later and that it wasn't their fault.
  • They may be new to the setting, or their routine is changed - perhaps parents have a new job, there is a new baby at home or a new older sibling... 
    • the child therefore may be under additional stress trying to adjust to the changes that are happening in their familiar world, and therefore need individual time and reassurance.
  • A traumatic event in the child's life - maybe the child's rabbit has died, or a neighbour, or their new balloon has blown away - although these events to an adult have a different sense of loss, they may be equally important to a young child.
  • Maybe the expectations for that child are too high, perhaps they are struggling with toilet training, or in learning a new skill and they need their confidence and self esteem raised so that they can feel confident within themselves to achieve their goal when they are ready.
What Children need
  • People around them who know their background, what they like and dislike, what makes them happy and sad, and whom they can talk to.
  • They need a sympathetic ear - someone with time to listen.
  • More one to one attention and time.
  • Love, reassurance and understanding - regardless of what they have done.
  • The opportunity to act out their feelings.
  • Freedom of choice over activities.
  • Malleable materials - playdough, sand, water, paint, paper where they can create freely and express their thoughts with no pressure to achieve the right or wrong result.
More Special Needs Information can be found here.

Helen Renouf
ADCE, NNEB

under5s - Hidden Special or Additional Needs
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