Specialist Team

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 Specialist team at any time. The Therapists and Therapy Assistants, alongside our ASD/Behaviour Support Specialist Teacher, make up our Specialist Team. This team is co-ordinated by a Specialist Manager and provides support for students, staff and parents. Referrals to other specialists can be made as required.

We also contract the services of a psychologist one day a week.

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


Speech and Language Therapy

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


Every student at Tauranga Special School has a right to have their communication style recognised, nurtured 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 expressions
  • Tone of voice
  • Vocalisations
  • Key word signing
  • Picture based systems
  • Reading
  • Speech
  • Assistive technology - eg. communication books, voice output communication devices
  • 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

All students who need help with their eating and drinking have an Eating, Drinking and Swallowing Plan which is set following joint assessment with our school SLT and the local hospital SLT, our class teams and the student’s family.
The therapists can also offer classes our ‘happy eating’ programme which includes food preparation and trying different tastes and textures targeting our more fussy eaters or those with a restrictive diet.


Workshops and training regarding 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)



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)
  • Seating to Go (wheelchairs)
  • Other equipment (weighted blankets /vests, postural supports,hand / arm splints)


Play and leisure occupations

  • Social skills
  • Play skills




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.

Positive Behaviour Support Provision at Tauranga Special School

Mana Kaha (being the best that we can be)


Our team

The Mana Kaha team includes:

David Keightley-Phillips (Psychologist: 1 day a week)
Billie Hampton-Edwards (Specialist Team Leader and UBRS/MAPA Trainer)
Penny Gee (Autism and Behaviour Support Specialist Teacher)
Naomi McDonald (Psychology Consultant)

The diversity of our Mana Kaha Team skillset facilitates creative and considered collaborations; both when addressing the needs of our students, whānau, staff and outside agencies, and when planning for the ongoing support and growth of our TSS community.

As a team we plan to deliver increasingly cohesive support to our school and wider community.

This includes developing a set of positive behaviour guidelines tailored to our schools specific needs, supporting staff and students to implement new practices, continuing to provide support with behaviour and wellbeing needs and providing regular PD opportunities to staff. This will at times also extend to offering education opportunities to other schools and providing resources and help to our students' wider support network where possible.