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English Online. Every child literate - a shared responsibility.
Ministry of Education.

Learners with special education needs

Special needs 1.

Responding to the needs and strengths of all students is one of the foundations of an inclusive classroom. In an English classroom, that may be as much about physical aids, such as digital technologies or extra personnel, as it is about differentiated pedagogy. The successful participation of special needs learners in English, involves a team response to individual needs – and participating at a suitable level often means academic success.

Suggestions for supporting students with special education needs in English include:

  • supporting vocabulary development through specific strategies such as modelling in different contexts, relating new words to existing vocabulary, using synonyms as well as examples and non-examples of words
  • explicit teaching of active listening behaviours
  • visual and touch cues to facilitate the development of speech-sounds
  • creating a language rich environment
  • strategies to support expressive communication, such as contingent responding, wait and signal, referencing and shaping
  • explicit teaching of phonemic awareness strategies, such as blending, segmenting and stretching
  • explicit teaching of reading strategies, such as skimming and scanning
  • use of comprehension strategies at the literal, inferential and applied levels
  • learning strategies for comprehension, such as summarising, story maps, semantic and graphic organisers
  • explicit teaching of spelling strategies, such as phonological, visual and morphemic strategies
  • instructional scaffolding for text types, such as flow charts, sentence starters and mind maps.

From  Supporting students in English with special education needs, NSW Education Standards Authority

There are a range of resources and readings to help us begin to understand and use appropriate pedagogies that will enhance learning for students with special needs, and all learners, when engaging with the English Learning area in The New Zealand Curriculum.

Questions to think about in your school context

  • What barriers to learning do students face in your classroom? How can you modify the environment to remove these? What technologies would support inclusion?
  • How can you create a flexible teaching and learning programme that allows all students to participate fully?
  • Are learning activities inclusive? Can students with differing backgrounds, experiences, levels of achievement, and abilities participate fully?


English HOD reflection – choices
An English teacher reflects on the impact online writing and collaborative tools have made to students' achievement in writing.

English HoD reflection – overview
The impact of one-to-one technologies on differentiation.

An inclusive learning environment supported by technology 
Renée Patete uses braille to read and write. In this video, Renee describes the difference technology makes to her learning by providing access to the curriculum and enabling ease of communication.

Through different eyes.

The Ministry of Education offers information about support for learners with special education needs.


The online dictionary of New Zealand Sign Language
A multimedia, multilingual reference tool. You can search by: English/Māori word, visual features of the sign and more.

Success for All – Every school, Every child (PDF)
This Ministry of Education strategy has been developed to support the vision of a fully inclusive education system.

Inclusive education: Guides for schools
This site contains a series of guides that provide New Zealand educators with practical strategies, suggestions, and resources to support learners with diverse needs.

These guides may be particularly useful: 

Gifted students with special learning needs (twice exceptional)

Twice exceptional.

Twice-exceptional (or 2E students) are sometimes also referred to as double labelled, or having dual exceptionality. These are gifted students whose performance is impaired, or whose high potential is masked, by a specific learning disability, physical impairment, disorder or condition. They may experience extreme difficulty in developing their giftedness into talent.

Gifted students with disabilities are at risk as their educational and social/emotional needs often go undetected. Educators often incorrectly believe twice-exceptional students are not putting in adequate effort within the classroom. They are often described as "lazy" and "unmotivated". Hidden disabilities may prevent students with advanced cognitive abilities from achieving high academic results. 2E students perform inconsistently across the curriculum. The frustrations related to unidentified strengths and disabilities can result in behavioural and social/emotional issues.

The  Twice-multi exceptional learners section on the Gifted Learners site will help you to understand the particular strengths and needs of twice/multi exceptional learners.

Updated on: 13 Oct 2023