Criterion 4 for ORS: Very high needs with language use and social communication

Learn about ORS Criterion 4. The students that meet this criterion have very high needs for support arising from a severe disorder of both language use and appropriate social communication. Students need regular specialist intervention or specialist monitoring at least once a month, together with daily learning support provided by others.

Level of compliance Main audience Other


  • Teachers and Kaiako
  • Principals and Tumuaki
  • Learning Support Coordinators and SENCOs
  • Learning Support Specialist Staff
  • Parents, Caregivers and Whānau
  • Boards
  • Non-Government Agencies
  • Disability Sector

This guidance provides assistance for schools and parents/caregivers/whānau wishing to apply for the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme to support a child with high or very high ongoing needs. To be eligible for ORS funding, a child must meet one or more of the ORS criteria.

A description of ORS Criterion 4 needs

This criterion is for students whose communication and social behaviour is extremely unusual, repetitive and inappropriate in their social context. They have an absence or severe impairment of social interaction, communication and imagination, and carry out a narrow, rigid and repetitive pattern of activities that appear meaningless to others. The intensity and combination of these characteristics vary with each student but are apparent most of the time.

They seem remote and unaware of others. It's extremely difficult to gain their attention, which is only achieved when the student has a very strong need.

They have very severe processing problems and seldom respond when spoken to or give any indication that they understand the purpose of communication. They're mainly non-verbal, may use a word occasionally and lack interest in imitating actions or words.

They often show a fascination for specific objects or actions that are used in a ritualistic way.

They're extremely anxious and disruptive in new environments or situations and unable to tolerate change or variation in routines.

They may communicate their feelings (including distress, frustration and confusion) through aggression or self-abusive behaviour. For some students' self-injury can also be a repetitive habit.

These students need frequent, intensive intervention from a speech-language therapist and a psychologist to help them develop an awareness of others and some form of meaningful communication.

A brief profile: At 4 years 10 months, Henare meets Criterion 4

Henare doesn't appear to understand spoken language. He uses jargon-type babble that is unintelligible and doesn't seem to have any communicative intent. Henare will sometimes tug on his mother's clothes to get an immediate need met but he cries and has tantrums when not understood.

Henare has great difficulty engaging in or attending to activities and participation is fleeting and intermittent. With persistent encouragement from an accepted adult, he's learning to carry out simple actions with a small range of familiar toys, such as blocks. This has taken intensive intervention over a long period.

When an adult doesn't work with Henare he's totally absorbed with small cars and puzzle pieces and either line them up or holds them close to his eyes while babbling and squealing with excitement. It's extremely difficult to interrupt him and change his focus of attention.

Henare finds any changes to his routines and environments very distressing and, at times, is inconsolable. He doesn't interact with other children. He'll walk over them and their activities to get what he wants. He likes to be outside and spends long periods of time running up and down the fence line.

These students need frequent, intensive psychologist and/or speech-language therapist intervention to take the unusual and inappropriate behaviours into consideration while helping them to engage, be understood, to respond and learn.

Students may meet other criteria instead

Students who need support may meet other criteria instead. Check to see which you should apply under.

Criterion Applies to students who:
Criterion 8 Are considered to have a high level of need, requiring less intervention
Criterion 9.5 Have both language use and social communication behaviours that are unusual, repetitive and inappropriate in their context, and impact learning and social interactions, together with moderate to high learning needs and 1 other area of need at a moderate to high level

Apply for ORS

Find out how to Apply for ORS and download our application forms.

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