Categorising learning difficulties

Categorising of learning difficulties will help to recognise in which area of learning a student will require support. The information provided by categorising will be used for planning and implementing the support. After the recognition of the need for support, a student can be categorised as a special needs student and an IEP will be designed appropriately.

Essential in recognising the need for support:

  • Early recognition, attention to abnormal behaviour
  • Exploiting transfer information, getting familiar with a student’s school history
  • Observations as a member of a group and as an individual
  • Interviews, quesionnaires
  • Tests, other surveys
  • After recognition proceed to pedagogical solutions



The basis of categorising special educational needs for IEPs in VET organizations

01 = spatial, attention and concentration difficulties

02 = language difficulties

03 = relationship and behavioural difficulties

04 = mild development delay

05 = severe development delay

06 = psychological long-term illnesses

07 = physical long-term illnesses

08 = learning difficulties linked to autism or Asperger’s Syndrome

09 = difficulties with movement and motor skills

10 = hearing impairment

11 = visual impairment

12 = other reasons which require special educational support


A set of categories of SEN have been used, for example, in designation of educational settings and in local authorities. There is no commonly and internationally agreed practices of how to categorize students with learning difficulties. Most European countries use 6-10 different categories, in Finland the categories are based upon the statistics on special needs education in vocational education provided by the Statistcs Finland (see above). The categories below are used in the UK.

The seven main areas of special educational needs or difficulty are:

1. Cognitive and Learning

2. Social, Emotional and Behavioural

3. Communication and Interaction

4. Sensory

5. Physical

6. Medical Conditions/ Syndromes

7. Other