Criterion 8 for ORS: High needs with language and social communication

Learn about ORS Criterion 8. The students that meet this criterion have high needs arising from a severe disorder of both language use and appropriate social communication. Students need specialist one-to-one intervention on average once per month or specialist monitoring on average once per school term, 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 8 needs

This criterion is for students whose communication and social behaviours are very unusual and inappropriate in their social context. They have a combination of severe difficulties with social interaction, communication and imagination and carry out rigid and repetitive behaviours. The particular combination and intensity of these characteristics vary but are apparent most of the time. These students:

  • are difficult to engage in almost all learning and social activities. They show frequent avoidance behaviour and require prompting to participate. As a consequence, their learning achievements are significantly delayed
  • usually distance themselves from social situations and seem to be largely unaware of people around them, although they may respond positively to their whānau/ parents and other very familiar people
  • often have trouble understanding and using non-verbal communication. They may take a person to something they want but don't indicate this by pointing or gesturing. These students also have severe difficulties processing verbal information. Some recognise symbols and words but don't demonstrate how to use this knowledge. Some use learned phrases and ritualised words that appear irrelevant to the current topic and may have little meaning for others
  • are severely distressed by change, needing to be reassured even when prepared in advance for new environments or changes in routines. Feelings of confusion or frustration may result in sudden changes in emotions.

Most students who meet this criterion have a diagnosis of autism but some have another, or no, medical diagnosis. A very small number of older students with a severe mental health condition also meet this criterion.

These students need regular specialist interventions from a speech-language therapist and a psychologist to help them develop an awareness of others and some meaningful communication.

This criterion is not for students who, despite major difficulties with communication and/or social behaviour, can be engaged to participate in meaningful learning in the curriculum.

A brief profile: At 4 years 10 months, David meets Criterion 8

David isn't involved in most activities and has a brief attention span for anything not self-chosen. He completes a favourite inset puzzle of nine pieces. Left to himself he runs a train around a track constantly or flicks very quickly through two favourite books about trains. He's distraught if he can't find these books at every kindergarten session.

David follows very familiar routines, such as washing his hands before morning tea, but needs frequent adult prompts. If the routine changes, or if there's a lot of noise, David reacts by screaming and hitting. When directed he urinates in the toilet at kindergarten but only does a bowel motion in a nappy.

Given a range of appropriate prompts, David matches colours and shapes, makes lines on paper and recognises big and little. He rarely shows generalisation of learning in new situations and does not engage in pretend play.

David leads and pushes to make his needs known or screams until someone works out what he wants. He often uses unintelligible jargon and echolalia but names some common objects.

David doesn't join in peer social play and needs an adult to facilitate turn taking. He relates to teachers through gestures and grunts when he needs something, although he smiles at his education support worker when she arrives at kindergarten.

A brief profile: At 14 years, Henry meets Criterion 8

Henry has a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. Prior to a successful ORS application before starting school he was supported by an early intervention team including an early intervention teacher, speech-language therapist and psychologist.

Henry is now 14 years old and attends his local secondary school. His communication is extremely limited. He has difficulty understanding or communicating through non-verbal behaviours, such as gesture, facial expression, eye-to-eye gaze and body postures. Henry uses single words and short phrases, many of which are repetitive and do not always fit the situation, so it is difficult for those who don’t know him to understand what he needs. He's very much in his own world. He does not understand information not related to his interests and lacks curiosity about others’ activities.

Henry has an extremely narrow range of interests in which he engages independently. These include playing specific computer games and drawing trucks with details of particular makes and models. Henry memorises names and simple facts about trucks and when left uninterrupted is absorbed for lengthy periods.

Tasks need to be broken into small steps and Henry relies on visual cues to help him understand what is required. He needs to be prepared in advance for any changes in routines, as he struggles to regulate his behaviours and becomes distressed and aggressive in situations he does not understand.

It's extremely difficult to keep Henry on task and as a result, his learning achievements are delayed across all curriculum areas. However, with one-to-one support he may engage for short periods with school work, which is adapted for him by a specialist teacher. Henry will use personalised computer programmes to participate in reading, writing and maths tasks based on his specific interests or that he is able to relate to his daily life.

Henry shows little interest in his peers and his lack of ability to determine what is acceptable also isolates him socially. Frequently he misreads social situations. Sometimes he can be supported to join small groups but will not stay if he feels anxious. His anxiety is extreme at times. He starts muttering loudly if he is expected to work in a group.

Large groups are very difficult for Henry. He is fearful of unknown people, refuses to attend some events and is unwilling to attend school assemblies. He is sensitive to touch, sounds and smell, which sometimes act as a trigger for aggression and he hits out at anyone near him.

Henry’s programme now includes transition planning and the team supporting him are working with his family/whānau and community agencies to explore recreation and future work options that interest him.

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 4  Are considered to have a very high level of need, requiring more intervention
Criterion 9.5  Have both language and social 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.

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