Learning Support Responsibilities Preparation

Learning supports for students with different impairments


Teaching and other support staff report that they have the knowledge, skills, information and support to work effectively with disabled learners and tauira with different impairments, and feedback processes for disabled learners and tauira concurs with this. 

Best practice standards

  1. Key staff receive regular and ongoing training about effective support for disabled learners with different impairments.  
  2. As well as providing information about effective support for disabled learners with different impairments, this training and support emphasises that staff  should work in partnership with disabled learners, their whānau and support networks as they are likely to have the best understanding of the learning support they require from lived experience.  
  3. This staff training and support is adequately resourced and arranged as part of induction and development programmes for all staff and, in particular, those involved with teaching and assessment.  
  4. Strategies are developed and implemented to measure if staff development and training leads to staff having the knowledge and skills to work effectively with these learners.  
  5. Specialist expertise, including the expertise of disabled learners and whānau, are actively involved in this training.  
  6. Staff receive and have access to resource information about effective support for disabled learners with different impairments.  
  7. There are feedback processes for disabled learners that indicate that key staff have the knowledge, skills, information and support to provide effective learning support for disabled learners with different impairments, and this is supported by monitoring and evaluation.

The last couple of years we’ve been having more deaf learners come to where I work in the trades department. I suppose it’s not common to have a deaf person want to be a carpenter. And the tutor [did not] know how to work with it... The disability support team wondered, “How do we get someone to support this?” It  was really heartening to see that our management over here really got on board  to support and get what we needed. So now we actually get quite a few from the  deaf community wanting to come here, because we put a lot of better practices in place. It’s not the best at the moment, but they’re definitely working on it.”  

“Most of the solutions are going to have advantages for learners who are not disabled. Making sure that you don’t put up dirty great big scanned PDF files  that a blind learner can’t process directly, is going to solve problems for all the learners who have band-width issues. You know, it’s a simple, simple message.  

You put a ramp into this building and watch all the non-disabled people walking up and down it because it’s easier than the stairs.”  

“I found [ADCET] to be a tremendous learning resource. And also, because it’s a clearing house, it’s got that independence as well and can run webinars, which are really, very useful as well.”  

- Trades and Staff, Tertiary Institutions.

Ideas and resources

  • The Australian Disability Clearinghouse on Education and Training (ADCET) provides a great overview of teaching and assessment strategies for learners with different impairments. There is an equivalent section for disability support practitioners which includes some additional ideas as well that may be relevant to teaching staff. 
  • Auckland University has developed a range of resource sheets for staff about providing learning support for students with different impairments. Some of the links, handouts and guidelines for staff highlighted in the ideas and resources section for teaching and learning support also includes these types of resources. 
  • The COVID-19 Pandemic and the move to more online learning has impacted on disabled learners in different ways, which need to be considered in your planning.


The special interest groups staff working with those with autism suggested: 

  • “We know we’re going to need to have an individualised approach that is as flexible as possible to meet the wide range of needs.” 
  • “Autism, dyslexia, dysgraphia, all those sorts of things that you can’t see, are just getting swept under the carpet.”
  • “Getting learners tested and diagnosed for things like dyslexia, ADHD, to some extent autism, is a huge issue for us. It’s something we’re really struggling with.”

Case studies for people with autism

  1. A mentor, somebody to organise their schedules.
    Somebody to keep them on task with assignments, to be a bit of a social translator for some of the things that are  going on can help. Also useful for some learners with dyslexia. 
  2. Asking for help.
    This can be a real barrier so approaching them first may work.
  3. Group work.
    This is often a nightmare for learners with autism when you’re asked to do work as part of a team.

    “We had a terrible example where a learner actually dropped out of his whole study because of the dynamics in the group environment… The  whole dynamic of group work can be tricky for autistic learners.”
  4. Transitions can be really difficult.
    “There’s a lot of highly capable autistic people who could have a great career that are actually sitting at home playing video games, just not getting that right pathway into meaningful study, work, whatever that might be.”
  5. Encouraging more connection.
    “Get autistic people together and they have no difficulty at all being socially connected. Being with your own tribe is incredibly liberating. And I know that universities and tertiary institutions can be really lonely places. So if there is a place, actually that connection [should be] encouraged.”
  6. The need for flexible access.
    “If you’ve got a learning need, that’s the requirement. It’s not a diagnosis…  I love the idea that there might be some assessment or diagnosis options at tertiary institutions. It’s such a barrier for so many neurodiverse people."
  7. Stories can move hearts and change attitudes really effectively.

The special interest groups staff working with Deaf people suggested: 

  • “... the support that Deaf people access in tertiary education is hugely variable in different locations in the country. And there is no access for Deaf people to private training institutes, because there’s no funding, nothing.” 
  • “Sadly, we have not seen an increase in the number of Deaf people going into tertiary education …. There’s two or three every year, and that’s nationally, which is a really sad statistic. So we do want more Deaf people going into tertiary institutions.” 
  • “ … this is about the funding for interpreters. I know it’s a really difficult conversation for the Government to have, because it is expensive, but the government needs to see this in the lens of an investment approach. You invest heavily here, and then long term you’ve got more Deaf people with qualifications who are contributing more to the economy and the society.” 

Case studies for deaf people

“We offer interpreters to our Deaf learners. I’m quite fortunate in that our chief financial officer is very understanding of how expensive that is... He just tends to say… “We have to provide that support and that’s all there is to it.”

- Staff, Tertiary Institution.

Specific learning disabilities (SLD)

The special interest groups staff working with those with SLD suggested: 

“I think that one of the ways forward is an awareness raising, generally, not just for educators, but for the wider community about what neurodiversity is and isn’t, and because it seems to me that it’s a largely invisible condition in New Zealand. We’ve had the problem where the Ministry of Education denied dyslexia’s existence until 2007.” 

“Students with dyslexia... is the biggest group of learners in terms of the number of learners that we get with regards to disability. We are seeing more learners with ADHD, as well as ASD…"

Case studies for people with specific learning disabilities (SLD)

“I’m working with TEC and Ako Aotearoa to develop a thing called the dyslexia friendly quality mark… It’s slightly morphing into the neurodiversity friendly quality mark... this quality mark targets board, senior management, academic staff, resource writers, learning support staff..."  

“We have a community of practice (of) academics to support learners with dyslexia.” 

- Staff, Tertiary Institution.

The special interest groups staff supporting people with mental illness suggested: 

“We do know there’s been an increase of learners with mental health (issues), with  conversations from my colleagues from the health and counselling centre... that group cannot identify with, or tend not to associate with, disability services, which is a challenge sometimes.”

“We’ve got a mentoring service going for learners with mental health conditions.” 

“We have a new position… a (mental health resource) which is awesome. It’s been a really, really good resource for staff and learners. He’s purely focused on mental health. So, that’s been amazing.” 

- Staff, Tertiary Institution.

This page is current as of May 2022 Print this page