Student profiles

Ministry of Education: Managing support for students with high special educational needs.


Supported through the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme

Joy is 15 years old and severely physically disabled. When she is at school, she needs to use a wheelchair for most of the day. She cannot use a pen easily or effectively, but she can move her arms and hands enough to use a touch-screen laptop. Joy cannot talk but can make some sounds, and she understands what is said to her. She can use a walker for short periods of times, but has to be accompanied by a minder whenever she is out of her wheelchair.

Joy needs regular physiotherapy and occupational therapy sessions. She has to be fed through a tube that goes into her stomach, and needs a teacher aide to toilet her and change her diaper. She is behind her peers academically because of her disability and long periods of ill health, but she is making steady gains with more regular attendance at school and with proper support.

Joy received support from the Ministry while she was at kindergarten, and has been eligible for ongoing support since she started school. She has a large team of people supporting her, including a psychologist, an occupational therapist, physiotherapists, a speech-language therapist, a teacher aide, a specialist teacher and the classroom teacher, and also hospital therapists. The team meets regularly to discuss Joy's needs and progress and to arrange her therapy sessions with specialists. She has a teacher aide for 25 hours a week. The Ministry pays for 22 of these hours, and Joy's school pays for the remaining three hours. A specialist teacher trains Joy's teachers and teacher aide in supporting Joy and adapting the classroom programme to her needs.

At interval and lunchtimes, Joy is looked after by "buddies" who are rostered from a list of 40 student volunteers. She has recently started going into the playground without assistance and without a buddy for one lunchtime a week, and everyone looks out for her.

Joy has recently been given a communication aid, which has helped her progress significantly and enabled others to understand her as a person. The principal and teachers at Joy's school believe she brings great value to the life of the school, and describe her as a joyful person with a great sense of humour.


Supported through the School High Health Needs Fund

Ellie is seven years old and has Type 1 diabetes. She lives in an isolated area and goes to a small country school with fewer than 20 students.

Ellie has an insulin pump that needs adjusting constantly, and she must control very carefully how much she eats and how much energy she uses throughout the day. The insulin pump, which she wears around her waist, keeps insulin flowing into Ellie's body. She needs an adult with her all the time, to watch for signs that Ellie's blood sugar levels are low, monitor her blood sugar levels, and adjust the insulin pump. When Ellie says "I feel low", the teacher or teacher aide has to test her blood sugar levels and give her a snack or a quick dose of insulin. In an emergency, Ellie would need a helicopter to take her to the nearest hospital.

Ellie is never without an adult. She has a teacher aide, who is funded by the Ministry, for part of the week. The teacher aide works in the school office for the other part of the week. The Ministry's Special Education Advisor and a diabetes educator work with the teachers at the school, Ellie's parents, and the other students to make sure that everyone understands Ellie's condition.

Ellie's teachers describe her as a very active, bright girl who lives life to the full. She can test her own blood sugar levels and is learning to interpret those levels. The Ministry's Special Education Advisor is now working on Ellie's Individual Care Plan to phase in self-monitoring gradually, so that she can become more independent by the time she goes to high school.


Supported through the Severe Behaviour Initiative

Len is eight years old and had a difficult start in life. As a tiny baby, he had trouble with sleeping and feeding. He had several medical tests before he was one, and began having extreme temper tantrums in his second year. Len also had language difficulties and received support from the Ministry before entering school.

Len started school in May 2006, and seemed to settle in well so the Ministry's support ceased in October 2006 and his file was closed. However, Len's file did not stay closed for long. He started hitting and scratching other children, and poking their eyes. He has also been assessed for a range of issues, including health issues and for further speech language support.

Len's work in class is about average for his age and he is capable of being very charming and focused. However, he can become violent without any warning if he does not like what is happening or what he is asked to do. He can be very demanding and jealous, and his friendships do not usually last. When his behaviour becomes too difficult in class, he is removed to work with the teacher aide.

Although the school principal and board of trustees have worked hard to keep him in school, the decision was made recently to move Len from his school to an alternative education school for boys with behavioural issues.

Len receives support from a behaviour teacher aide, a Ministry psychologist, and a speech-language therapist. Len also has support from his mother's workplace family support scheme, and the local hospital's Child and Family Mental Health Service. The team that supports Len meets about once a term. Len's mother feels well supported by both the school and the Ministry psychologist who has been working with Len and the family. It has been a struggle to understand and adapt to Len's needs, for her and for the whole family. The Ministry psychologist has worked hard to ensure that Len gets the help he needs as early as possible.


Supported through the Speech Language Initiative

Michael is a bright, active seven-year-old who attends a small school in a rural town. When Michael was very little, he had recurring ear infections while he was learning to talk. The ear infections prevented him from learning the beginnings and endings of words, and Michael has had difficulty identifying and reproducing these sounds.

When Michael started kindergarten, he could not express what he wanted to say, and others had difficulty understanding him. This made it difficult for him to make friends with the other children in his kindergarten, and they sometimes teased him. Michael was frustrated and unhappy, and he would often run away and hide. When he started school, Michael also had trouble with learning to read, and had extra help with this.

Michael has had support from Child and Adolescent Health Services and the Ministry since starting kindergarten, but had not made very much progress with his speech before his current speech-language therapist started working with him. Michael has had ongoing support in the classroom for two terms from the Ministry's speech-language therapist and a communication support worker.

Michael's current speech-language therapist has been working intensively with him for two years, seeing Michael one-on-one fortnightly. Michael can now say most of his consonants correctly, and has made good friends at school. He talks freely and has given a speech in front of his school assembly. He reads well, and gained the "Diligence" prize last year.

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