We have a lot of parents contact us to ask what support they are entitled to receive at school for their child. The answer, unfortunately, is not a clear cut one. We have provided this page with links to relevant parts of the Ministry of Education site to help you work out what you might be entitled to.
The main reason it is hard to give a clear answer is that every child is looked at on an individual basis. What exact needs each child has is assessed rather than looking solely at the condition they have. However, the reason conditions have names is because the children with the condition share common challenges. Using this stereotypical view we have looked at what services are available, the criteria for them and have summarised the most likely services a child with Asperger’s Syndrome will be entitled to.
Please note that “classic” autism presents itself it quite a different way to Asperger’s Syndrome. Children with “classic” autism are likely to be non-verbal and very withdrawn. Therefore there tends to be more services readily available to them, many of which aim to get them to connect and interact with the world.
For those that have children that are not yet of school age, the Ministry of Education provides an Early Intervention Service that can assist with diagnosis, support and transition to school. You can contact them by calling your local Group Special Education direct.
Early Intervention Service Summary
SCHOOL BASED SUPPORT
When starting down the path to getting assistance at school, you need to start with the school and classroom teacher themselves. There are three key services, summarised below, that they can access for you.
Resource Teachers Learning and Behaviour (RTLBs)
These teachers usually work in a cluster of schools. They work with both the teacher and the child to help determine what needs the child has. They may provide some one on one support themselves to the child for short – medium term issues. They can help facilitate access to other services for long term issues. RTLBs are free to liase with teachers, principals, the Ministry and parents and are therefore a great starting step.
Individual Education Program (IEP)
When a student is identified as needing:
- extra assistance, adapted programmes or learning environments
- specialised equipment or materials to support them in special or regular education settings.
then they should have an individual education program (IEP) written for them. The writing of the IEP is a collaborative process involving the teacher and parent as well as any other staff working with the child such as RTLBs, teacher aides, teacher in charge of special needs, principal etc.
The IEP will identify the student’s needs, and goals will be made for their progress in key areas. How these goals will be met, and who is responsible for doing what, are also listed. Finally a date will be set to review the plan and, if needed, create a new one. This is usually no more than one term away.
The great advantage of this process is that everyone is clear on what the priorities are and what role they are playing. Because there are specific goals, when the IEP is reviewed, progress is easily charted. If there are obvious areas identified where more support is needed, that support can then be applied for.
The link below will take you to a Ministry document describing the IEP process in full:
Ministry of Education – IEPs
Special Education Grant (SEG)
Each school is given a sum of money each year to fund special education initiatives. Unfortunately this grant is not needs based and often does not stretch very far. The school has some discretion in how it uses this grant but it is typically used to employ one or more teacher aides. These teacher aides work one on one or with small groups of children who have learning needs but who do not qualify for other funding.
MINISTRY BASED SUPPORT
The old Special Education Service has now become part of the Ministry of Education and is known as Group Special Education (GSE) although it is still commonly referred to as SES. They are primarily there to provide support to students with moderate, high or very high needs.
Those with moderate needs are mainly supported through the school based strategies listed above. In addition the school can apply for occupational therapy if your child has physical needs, and speech and language therapy. If an RTLB is working with your child and they recognise that they have moderate needs but are not currently funded by ORRS (see below) then the RTLB can apply for extra teacher aide funding through Learning Support. An overview of these services is available below:
Group Special Education Overview
For students with high or very high needs, ongoing support that is “attached” to the student rather than the school is offered. This means the funding moves with them when they change schools. This funding is known as ORRS (see below).
Ongoing and Reviewable Resourcing Schemes
This is a complex scheme but one that can provide good ongoing funding for your child. The application must come from an educator (usually your child’s teacher, deputy principal or principal) and is generally made in the early years of schooling.
Previously, many children with Asperger’s Syndrome have been deemed as not having severe enough needs to qualify for this funding. However, a new criterion called Combined Moderate Needs was introduced in 2001 and many children now qualify for some support. It is worth pointing this out to schools as some may not be aware of it.
Below is the link to the Ministry document that outlines the criterion and process for applying. The criterion that most applies to those with Asperger’s is 9.5 (under combined moderate ongoing needs). The document even includes an example description of a child that would fit this criterion and it sounds very much like they are describing Asperger’s Syndrome! You may find it useful to print this criterion and the example to show to your child’s teacher.
ORRS – Guidelines and Criterion
The Ministry provides a service for helping children that are defined as having behaviour that severely limits their social acceptance, and interferes with a sense of well being and educational performance. This is a short term service for children at the severe end of the behavioural spectrum. The process can be started by calling GSE and asking to speak to a member of the Behaviour Service Team (BEST).
Behaviour Service Summary
CONTACTING GROUP SPECIAL EDUCATION
The link below will take you to the page on the Ministry site that lists all the local GSE offices.The main national hotlime is 0800 622 222.