The Education Additional Support for Learning Scotland Act 2004 introduces the concept of "additional support needs", that is, when a child or young adult is unlikely to be able to benefit from school education without additional support. The Act also sets out the concept of a range of factors which may lead to some young children and young people having a need for additional support. These fall broadly into four overlapping themes:
Additional support needs may be of a short duration, perhaps even a few weeks, or could be long term or "life long". The same factor may have different impacts so it can not be assumed, for example, that difficulties at home or bereavement will necessarily have an adverse effect on a child or young persons' learning. Similarly, it can not be assumed that the need for additional support implies a lack of ability or skill. For example, a young person who is deaf may require support with language and communication but have exceptional talent in other areas.