Integrated effective service provision for children and young people with physical disabilities

Publication Details

This is the full report of the first stage of a research programme on effective services for students with disabilities, commissioned by the Ministry of Education convened Advisory Reference Group for Students with Physical Disabilities. The report on the scoping project report covers integrated and effective service provision for children and young people with physical disabilities, and outlines a proposal for the next phase of the research.

Author(s): Trevor McDonald and Pat Caswell, School of Education, University of Otago; Merrolee Penman, School of Occupational Therapy, Otago Polytechnic.

Date Published: August 2001

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Summary

Background

New Zealand ’s history of providing special education support for children and young people with disabilities stretches back to the late 19 th Century. In the intervening years New Zealand ’s belief in an egalitarian society has been combined with an increasing international awareness of human rights and disability issues. A significant outcome of such thinking has been the development and implementation of the Special Education 2000 policy.

Specifically the needs of children and young people with physical disabilities have been recognised since the Education Act of 1914. The advance of medicine since then has meant that many more children are surviving their early childhood years and their disabling conditions cover a broad spectrum of need.

The role of the physiotherapist and occupational therapist in special education settings was first formally recognised by Dr Earl Carlson who visited New Zealand in 1948 at the invitation of the Government and Crippled Children’s Society. His recommendations led to the setting up of special schools and units whose focus was the education of children and young people with physical disabilities. These centres continue to provide support for some students but an increasing number are now educated in their neighbourhood schools. Traditionally students whose primary diagnosis was intellectual disability were not entitled to receive occupational or physiotherapy support, regardless of the fact that many of them also had an accompanying physical disability.

The provision of physiotherapy and occupational therapy for students with physical disabilities continues to be an important component of any support programme and funding for these services is provided through the Moderate Contract for Students with Physical Disabilities (the Moderate Contract) and the Ongoing and Reviewable Resourcing Scheme within Special Education 2000.

In 2000 in response to growing concern about issues relating to the new policy the Labour Government announced a review which was undertaken in the first half of that year (Wylie, 2000). In her final report Wylie raised a number of issues relating to the delivery of physiotherapy and occupational therapy services, particularly the costing of therapy services, the need for benchmarks of good practice, and an analysis of the effectiveness of programmes for students with physical disabilities.

To this end, the Ministry of Education’s Reference Group for Students with Physical Disabilities (the Reference Group) commissioned a team from the School of Education at the University of Otago to design a research programme investigating current provision, and integrated effective practice service provision for students with physical disabilities in the compulsory school sector. 

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