Health conditions and learning: Information for teachers

This information provides guidance for teachers wanting to support a learner with health conditions.

Health conditions and learning

Every learner’s response to and experience of a health condition is different. The impact on each learner’s hauora and their learning will depend on many factors and will change over time.

  • They may make leaps and experience set-backs.
  • Observe them closely and unobtrusively.
  • They’ll need you to check in often.
  • Hold positive and realistic expectations, gently supporting their participation and learning in ways that work for them.

Read more useful strategies to support learning:

Strategies to support learning

What to pay attention to

Pay attention to:

  • attendance
  • energy (both physical and wairua/high or low spirit and mauri moe, expressions of gloom, sadness, fear, guilt, mistrust)
  • fatigue (yawning, fuzzy, apathetic, slurred speech, arriving late, taking a long time to complete tasks)
  • behaviour (withdrawal, aggression or frustration, changes in expression such as talking a lot or talking less)
  • attention and distraction
  • falling behind with school work
  • connections with friends and peers and evidence of healthy, nurturing relationships
  • agency around what they can and can’t do and need support with
  • levels of confidence, self-consciousness, self-image
  • what is easy, challenging
  • what brings joy, what brings frustration.

Be willing to help by making adjustments

You might need to make adjustments or take steps to:

  • reduce environmental triggers and infection risks (for example, for allergies or asthma attacks, sensory needs, exposure to viruses)
  • aid physical accessibility
  • manage fatigue
  • provide for social and emotional needs
  • foster dignity, independence and self-management
  • reduce self-consciousness (for example, flexible uniform policy, access to drinking water, how to ask to be excused from class, opportunities to demonstrate areas of strength)
  • support attention
  • support communication
  • support organisation
  • build confidence and a feeling of safety
  • respond to changes in fine motor skills
  • plan for safe trips
  • homework volumes
  • access school work when not at school
  • exam conditions.

Special assessment conditions – NZQA(external link)

What to talk with ākonga and whānau about

Listen to and talk regularly with ākonga and their whānau about (daily check in/check out or notebook between home and service/school):

  • how well they’re sleeping
  • pain levels
  • their energy levels (both physical and wairua/high or low spirit)
  • when they’ve eaten
  • thoughts and feelings (worried, sad, angry, scared, joy, gratitude, in control, overwhelmed)
  • when they’ve taken medications
  • worries
  • friends and friendships
  • hopes and goals.

Teach about health conditions, health management, and social and emotional learning

He Māpuna te Tamaiti is a resource for early learning services. It provides useful strategies for supporting expression, emotional regulation, building resilience and providing guidance during heightened emotions.

He Māpuna te Tamaiti

If a learner is absent from school for some time, discuss with their whānau how their peers can keep in touch through Zoom, email, get well cards, video messages, sending "happy packages" or Monkey in my Chair.

Helping cancer patients stay connected to their classmates – Monkey in my Chair(external link)

Sparx interactive game to help young people who are feeling down:

Building resilience through game play – Sparx(external link)

Whitu: 7 ways in 7 days is a New Zealand-based app to help with strategies to reduce anxiety and improve wellbeing.

Whitu: 7 ways in 7 days – Google Play store(external link)

Other resources

Mental health education: A guide for teachers, leaders and school boards – TKI Health and PE(external link)

Teaching interpersonal skills, resilience, and wellbeing – NZHEA(external link)

Teacher's asthma toolkit – Asthma & Respiratory Foundation NZ(external link)

Common questions kids ask about cancer – KidsHealth(external link)

Resources about cancer – KidsHealth(external link)

Strategies to support learning

Read more useful strategies to support learning:

Strategies to support learning

Last reviewed: Has this been useful? Give us your feedback