Children with special education needs
Help is available if your child has special education needs related to their disability.
The need may be a physical disability, a vision or hearing difficulty, issues with communication, learning or behaviour, or a combination of these.
All services are free if your child is eligible to receive them. Alternatively, you may choose to pay for them yourself by going directly to a speech therapist, physiotherapist, occupational therapist etc.
This section is divided into:
Before your child starts school
Support is available for children from the time they are born. Ministry of Education, Special Education staff or service providers work with children with moderate to severe special education needs at home or in kindergartens, early childhood education and care centres, and Köhanga Reo.
What help is available?
Services can include:
- advice for teachers and parents
- information about play techniques to teach the child new skills (drawing, blocks etc)
- ways to improve social and learning skills and manage behaviour (how to reinforce good behaviour, language to use when talking with your child etc)
- speech language therapy (helping your child learn to swallow better, gain language skills etc)
- education support workers (helping your child one-to-one at their early childhood education centre
- developing special resources such as communication aids (special picture-based communication boards to help your child communicate if they can't speak etc)
- co-ordinating physiotherapy, occupational therapy and equipment (working with your health and disability therapists if required).
If your child is at school
Most children with special education needs receive support and services from their school. If necessary, schools can arrange for specialist teachers to provide services or make a referral to the Ministry of Education, Special Education. An assessment of your child may be needed to:
- determine whether they have mild, moderate or high special education needs
- identify whether they need special teaching in order to learn, or special equipment to help them see, hear or move around and be safe at school.
Assessment is carried out by the class teacher, school staff and specialists from appropriate agencies, and you should be involved in the process. The information gained will be used to tailor a plan for your child (called an Individual Education Programme or IEP).
Students with high special education needs
A very small number (3%) of children are defined as having high needs and meet the criteria for specialist help through a number of schemes and services through the Ministry of Education. These include:
- the Ongoing and Reviewable Resourcing Schemes (ORRS), which provide resources for students with severe disabilities in the areas of learning, vision, hearing, mobility or language use and social communication. ORRS funding can be for extra teacher time, specialist programmes and therapies, and teacher aide support
- the Communication Service to support children who have difficulties with talking, listening and understanding language
- the Severe Behaviour Service to assist children experiencing behaviour difficulties
- the School High Health Needs Fund to support children with serious medical conditions that requrie specialist care.
for information about these services see the parent information kit on the Ministry of Education website www.minedu.govt.nz
Who to contact
If you are concerned about your child's learning:
- talk to your Plunket nurse, Parents as First Teachers educator, Iwi Health Authority or early childhood education centre (for preschoolers)
- talk to the classroom or form teacher or the school principal (for children at primary or secondary school), or the school's Special Education Needs Co-ordinator if the school has one
- talk to your family doctor
- contact the Ministry of Education's Special Education Information Line 0800 622 222.
If you get stuck
All schools are expected to be open and welcoming to every child whatever their ability. If you feel a school is being unwelcoming or is reluctant to enrol your child because they have special education needs, then this is of concern to the Ministry of Education. Please let them know at Special Eduction if this happens to you - call and ask to speak to the district manager at your nearest Ministry of Education Special Education district office.