Helping Businesses Become More Inclusive with SEND Session Guides

with Dan Hughes

I don't think that there are many people reading this that would argue that inclusivity isn't beneficial to everyone, but sometimes being exclusive is the best way to include children with SEND. The rise of SEND (special educational needs and disabilities) specific sessions in places such as theatres, cinemas, museums and soft play areas are usually met with relief and gratitude from parents of children with additional needs.

What they offer is opportunities, opportunities that their children would otherwise miss out on because there are too many other children, too much noise, their child cannot sit still or stay quiet or there are no captions or BSL interpreters amongst many other factors than mean families stay are forced to away. SEND specific sessions usually require that businesses actively exclude the rest of the public in order to allow children who otherwise wouldn't be able to participate the opportunity, which might make many think twice before offering them. However they can be lifelines for families and word of mouth spreads quickly, meaning business can generate income in quieter times and also help their local community.

Recognising how valuable these sessions are, parent carer Dan Hughes set out to write his own SEN session guide. He tells us more about it below.

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Helping Businesses Become More Inclusive with SEN Session Guides by Dan Hughes

There are more than 11 million people with a disability in the UK alone—and SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disability) children make up around 1.4 million of that number.

Despite the fact that there are millions of disabled people living in the UK, there is a significant shortage of inclusive groups, activities, and venues to accommodate their needs.

We have seen signs of progress in recent years, but we’ve still got a long way to go in making our society fair and amenable for all.

Arguably, one of the most promising signs of progress is the gradually rising number of SEN (Special Educational Needs) sessions popping up across the nation. 

What is a SEN session?

At its core, a SEN session is a practical means of inclusion—a pledge to give everyone (or as many as possible) access to your services, activities or facilities without the looming threat of panic, stress or judgement.

These inclusive sessions allow SEND children and adults to be themselves in a suitable environment where they're accepted and understood.

By making reasonable adjustments at your setting based on specific physical, cognitive or sensory needs, you can (and will) make your business significantly more inclusive.

Thousands of businesses up and down the UK run SEN sessions for their customers or clients. From quieter, less overwhelming movie screenings to sports sessions with trained staff and appropriate physical or sensory adjustments, SEN sessions come in several forms. With the proper knowledge and guidance, positive change is possible.

Why I decided to produce an autism & sensory processing-based SEN session guide

As a SEN parent, this particular subject is close to my heart. I’m a content writer by trade and decided to use this experience to create an autism and sensory processing-based SEN session guide for businesses looking to become more inclusive. 

This is the moment that inspired me to get the project started:

During the school holidays, I noticed that The Ice Cream Farm in Cheshire was running a series of SEN sessions, so I booked a space for my son and me.

The session was wonderfully organised, the staff were clearly well trained, and the atmosphere was incredibly relaxed—a breath of fresh air in a world that isn't typically set up for all to enjoy in full.

At one point during the session, my son and I wandered into an indoor water play area. Although the apparatus was set up for experimenting with water rather than jumping and rolling around in it, my son immediately took his shoes off and took the plunge. He was soaked through.

My initial reaction was to gently coax him away from the water for a moment and guide him through how to use it ‘properly’—but then I looked around.

There were dozens of children hopping, climbing, splashing, exploring the area in their own way in what I can only describe as a ‘smiley, happy, mildly controlled chaos’. Many of the parents were grinning and nodding to each other in a relaxed relief, safe in the knowledge that everyone in the room ‘gets it’ and ‘it’s all okay, our kids are happy.’ It was magic.

Right there at that moment, I decided we needed more of these sessions and that I was going to produce a guide for businesses.

Broken down into digestible sections, my autism and sensory processing-based SEN session guide offers practical tips and advice based on original research. You can download a copy at the end of this post.

How to adapt the guide according to specific needs

My SEN session guide is primarily focused on accommodating autistic people and those with sensory processing needs as this is where my knowledge lies. But, there are of course, several needs or disabilities to consider when it comes to being inclusive.

You can use this guide to set up SEN sessions or make reasonable adjustments for autistic participants (or share it with businesses you feel will benefit from the guidance) and people with sensory needs.  But, also, you can use this as a blueprint to build on and adapt it according to specific needs or disabilities.

Inclusivity shouldn’t be a strategy, it should be a givenThere’s still a long road to walk to reach a time where every facet of society is fair, but initiatives like SEN sessions are playing a pivotal part of the progress. 

Read my guide, use it as a template for your personal efforts, insights, and research or share it with the people that could use the guidance—and together, we can get more businesses on board.

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Download the SEN Session guide here:

Dan is a content writer and proud SEND parent. Originally from Slough, Dan now lives in North Staffordshire with his wife, son, and energetic Labrador dog. He's currently on a mission to get more UK businesses to offer their customers SEN sessions

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