Multi-Disciplinary Therapy Team (MDT)

All students at Tauranga Special School have direct access to Speech Language Therapy, Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy. The Therapists and Therapy Assistants provide a wide range of therapies based on the students’ needs and in consultation with families and staff. A parent or carer of a student is very welcome to discuss the student’s therapy needs with any of our Therapy team at any time. The Therapists and Therapy Assistants also form the Multi-Disciplinary Team. This team is co-ordinated by a Therapy Manager and provides support for students, staff and parents. Referrals to other specialists can be made as required.

We also contract the services of psychologist for one morning a week.

  • Speech and Language Therapy
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Physiotherapy and Hydrotherapy
  • Psychologist

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Speech and Language Therapy

The Speech and Language Therapy Team supports students with their communication, eating, drinking and swallowing skills.


Communication is a basic human right, every student at Tauranga Special School has a right to have their communication style recognised and supported. We use a Total Communication approach, using any means of communication to help our students' to understand their world and to be understood.

This may include:

  • Gesture and body posture
  • Facial expression
  • Tone of voice
  • Vocalisations
  • Key Word signing
  • Picture based systems
  • Reading · Speech
  • Assistive Technology - Voice Output Communication Aids to Communication books
  • Objects of reference
  • Intensive Interaction

The Speech and Language Therapists and Therapy Assistant are an intrinsic part of each class at Base school and at the Satellite classes. The Therapists provide assessment on levels of communication, environmental assessments and functional use of language. Individual assessments and programmes for speech, oral skills and feeding/swallowing safety are done also. Communication strategies and adapted environments are used in each class to support all the students. All new students admitted have an assessment period and individual programmes are set as required. Students are supported around major transition periods or through transition to other schools.

Eating, Drinking and Swallowing

As a school we encourage healthy attitudes towards food and safe eating techniques, and as part of the SLT role, all students who have difficulties with biting, chewing or swallowing will have an individual programme. All students who are tube fed or have supplemental feeding have individual programmes for oral skills and oral hygiene. As part of the Happy Eating programme, classes continue to work on all aspects of food preparation and trialling new and different tastes and textures of food. We are encouraging our more fussy eaters to participate as much as possible. All students who have eating difficulties or are fussy eaters will also have an individual Happy Eating goal.

Workshops and in-house training about communication, eating, drinking and swallowing are run as required.

Occupational Therapy

The Occupational Therapist and Therapy Assistant assist students to develop in their whole of life occupations. They have a regular time slot in each classroom. Sometimes they work individually with a student, sometimes in a small group session, sometimes the therapists will work in an advisory capacity with the teacher to set up and monitor activities that are to be part of the student’s regular daily / weekly programme.


This may include:

Work and educational occupations

  • Hand function (pencil skills, using scissors, using a switch/ mouse for the computer)
  • Class routines (using visual timetables, task analysis, sequence strips)
  • Sensory processing (sensory programmes, sensory diets)
  • Reading (eye movements, visual perception)

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Life Skills

Life skills and personal care occupations

  • Eating / drinking
  • Toileting · Dressing and undressing
  • Food preparation
  • Shopping
  • Accessing recreational activities


Equipment provision

  • Ministry of Health (hoists, slings, toilet supports, eating equipment)
  • Ministry of Education (assistive technology, seating)
  • Other equipment (weighted blankets /vests, postural supports,hand / arm splints)


Play and leisure occupations

  • Social skills
  • Play skills

The Occupational Therapy Team also run the Sherborne Programme. This developmental movement programme is designed to address the diverse and unique learning patterns of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.


The key elements are:

  • minimal and focused use of language
  • visual prompts for movement activities
  • kinaesthetic cues for beginning, transition and end
  • movement experiences
  • one support person per child

Sessions follow a sequence of movement activities presented on visual cards. Children are encouraged to take the lead in completing each activity, body awareness, exploring space, interacting with another person.


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Physiotherapy and Hydrotherapy

The Physiotherapy Team includes a Physiotherapist and a full time Physiotherapy Assistant who is also a trained swim teacher. Our aim is that all our students reach their potential physically. Either learning to sit, stand or walk or if they are already mobile, we work on their balance, strength, coordination and improving their fitness.

We base our therapy on the MOVE programme, Movement Opportunities Via Education. This means that therapy is integrated throughout the day with the class programme and occurs every day. This enables the student to acquire increased independence in sitting, standing and walking. To assist our hands on therapy us we use standing frames, walking frames and other specialised equipment.

Our students may enjoy trike riding, hydrotherapy, attending Argos Gym and a number of our students attend Riding for the Disabled on a weekly basis. These activities can help support our therapy goals.

We may also accompany students with their family on visits to specialists, clinics or agencies to discuss medical needs and intervention, advocate for change as required and provide a link between educational and medical needs.

We are accredited with Enable (the Ministry of Health equipment fund holder) so can apply for the necessary equipment the students need.

All our staff are well trained in our physiotherapy programmes and we celebrate with our students in their successes.


We have a heated swimming pool at the Base School that we utilise all year round. For our less mobile students we continue their therapy programme using the heat and buoyancy of the water to assist them.

For those that are able we have a “learn to swim” programme aligned with Swimming New Zealand. Many of our older students utilise the local pools closest to the satellite classes.

Swimming is also a form of relaxation for many of our students and we have a lot of fun and laughter in the pool.