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Help for children and young people with learning support needs - A Guide for Carers

Help is available from the Ministry of Education if your child has learning support 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.

Before your child starts school

Specialist staff from the Ministry of Education work alongside other agencies to support children with learning support needs at home or in all early learning services me ngā kōhanga reo.

What help is available?

Services can include:

  • advice for educators, parents and whānau
  • 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 gain language skills etc.)
  • education support workers (helping your child one-to-one at their early learning service)
  • developing 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 learning support needs receive support and services from their school or kura. If necessary, schools can arrange for specialist teachers to provide services or make a referral to the Ministry of Education’s learning support services. An assessment of your child may be needed to determine their individual need and the relevant support required for them to participate, learn and achieve at school.

An assessment of the child is carried out by the class teacher and school staff with whoever else needs to be involved including specialist staff, the parents or guardians. The assessment is focused on what support your child needs to learn and achieve. The information gained may be used to tailor an education plan for your child (called an Individual Education Plan or IEP).

Public schools and kura have access to Resource Teachers: Learning and Behaviour who work with students who have learning and behaviour challenges, their teachers and families. Schools and kura may also access support from Resource Teachers: Vision and Resource Teachers: Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

Students with high learning needs

A very small number of children are defined as having high needs and meet the criteria for specialist help through a number of schemes and services available through the Ministry of Education. Some of these students may attend a specialist school.

Some of the Ministry of Education’s schemes and services

  • The Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS) provides resources for students with high and very high needs in the areas of learning, vision, hearing, mobility, language and social communication. ORS support is for extra teacher time, specialist programmes, and therapies and teacher aide support.
  • The Communication Service supports children who have difficulties talking, listening and understanding language.
  • The Severe Behaviour Service assists children experiencing challenging behaviour difficulties.
  • The School High Health Needs Fund supports children with serious medical conditions so they can be included in school programmes.
  • The three Regional Health Schools (Northern, Central and Southern) provide teaching support for children who are unwell and can’t go to their usual school for a long period (they may have a physical or mental illness), are in a health-funded mental health programme, or are returning to their usual school after being away for a long time and need support.
  • Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu, The Correspondence School provides distance education for children and young people from early childhood through to secondary. To find out more, visit tekura.school.nz or call 0800 659 988.

For more information visit the Ministry of Education website's section for Parents, or search for the scheme or service you wish to learn more about.

Who to contact

If you’re concerned about your child’s learning, contact:

  • your Plunket nurse, Iwi Health Authority or early childhood education service (for preschoolers)
  • the classroom teacher or the school principal (for children at primary or secondary school), or the school’s Special Education Needs Coordinator (SENCO) or Learning Support Coordinator if the school has one
  • your doctor
  • the Ministry of Education’s learning support information line 0800 622 222.

If you need more help

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 learning support needs, then this is of concern to the Ministry of Education. Please let them know if this happens to you – call and ask to speak to the Manager, Learning Support at your nearest Ministry of Education regional office. To find a list of contact details for your nearest office visit the Local Ministry offices page on the Ministry of Education website.


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