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SEMH (social, emotional, mental health)

SEMH needs are a type of special educational need where a child communicates through behaviour in response to unmet social, emotional or mental health needs.  

Children with SEMH needs are often dysregulated, which means that they have difficulties in managing their emotions or their behaviour. They can show inappropriate responses to their emotions. They can feel scared, anxious and misunderstood. 

It is estimated that around 150,000 children in mainstream and special schools are experiencing SEMH challenges. 

Some neurodiverse conditions, such as ADHD and ASD, can make it harder for the child to make sense of the everyday world around them. This can make their anxiety and dysregulation hard to predict.  

SEMH does not have to be a lifelong condition. With appropriate support children and young people can move forward and live successful lives. 

Behaviours children with SEMH needs might display:



Verbal or physical aggression

Lashing out



Possible law breaking such as stealing or vandalism


Supporting children with SEMH needs

Building up a relationship of trust

Provide clearn and fair boundaries and stick to them

Help the child to identify their own challenges and give them strategies to develop self-responsibility

Make a fresh start everyday

Be consistent and say what you mean


Useful online information, resources and support:

Craneswater ELSA / Loss Companion

Quick emergency toolkit to loss doc - pdf

Resources for Emotional Literacy Support Assistants - ELSA Support ( – ELSA support

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) - NHS ( – NHS

National Autistic Society (

Tourettes Action (

Mental Health Support Teams - Portsmouth Education Partnership – MHST

Neurodiversity - > Portsmouth Local Offer

Mental health support for young people – advice for parents and professionals - Portsmouth City Council – wider mental heath support for children in Portsmouth.

Get Help - HYA ( – counselling for children aged 5-17.


Recommended books:

The Kids' Guide to Staying Awesome and In Control: Simple Stuff to Help Children Regulate their Emotions and Senses : Lauren Brukner: Books

When My Worries Get Too Big!: A Relaxation Book for Children Who Live with Anxiety: Kari Dunn Buron: 9781937473808: Books

Starving the Anxiety Gremlin for Children Aged 5-9: A Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Workbook on Anxiety Management: 11 (Gremlin and Thief CBT Workbooks): Kate Collins-Donnelly: 9781849054928: Books

Starving the Anger Gremlin for Children Aged 5-9: A Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Workbook on Anger Management: 4 (Gremlin and Thief CBT Workbooks): Kate Collins-Donnelly: 9781849054935: Books

Ruby’s Worry: A Big Bright Feelings Book : Percival, Tom, Percival, Tom: Books

Ravi's Roar: A Big Bright Feelings Book: Percival, Tom, Percival, Tom: 9781408892183: Books

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