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Education in NZ

NZ Ministry of Education (MOE) policy documents


Handy Resources

Angelman Syndrome and Education

Just as every ‘typical’ child is unique and learns differently, so too, do children who live with Angelman syndrome. They may share some common traits related to the syndrome but their motivation for learning and their unique personality and general outlook on life will be based on personal interests and individual abilities.


Students who have Angelman syndrome can learn to communicate, read and write. It is important to understand how AS can affect learning by affecting sleep patterns, memory, sensory processing, and motor planning - and also how seizure medications may have on effect on concentration. It is helpful to know about:

  • the medical/physical overview of AS

  • the unique behaviours and how they might be presented in the classroom

  • the learning profile, practical strategies, how to adapt the curriculum 

  • management around educational setting

  • transition planning

How Angelman Syndrome affects learning

Angelman Syndrome for Educators – a great resource by Erin Sheldon, published by The Angelman Network

Because Angelman syndrome is rare, there is no specific training provided for staff who work with students with AS. Families of children with AS find it disheartening when their children enter a school system that is ill-prepared to teach them. The general rule is 'presume competence' for best outcomes.

Read more on Presuming Competence in the classroom, here.

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The Individual Education Plan (IEP) 

"There is a strong need for families and teachers to have a shared ‘up to date’ knowledge and understanding of AS so that effective communication and collaboration on behalf of the student can develop."

In NZ, IEP stands for “individual education plan”. The “IEP process” is the ongoing collaborative process by which IEPs are developed, implemented, and reviewed. 

From the Ministry of Education (MOE):

  1. What is an IEP, who needs an IEP and when?

  2. Individual Plans (IPs) and Individual Education Plans (IEPs)

  3. The IEP process - building true collaboration

As a parent, it is very important to go into an IEP with a strong resolve - feeling confident and positive. If you are feeling emotional, depressed or anxious, make sure to take a support person along with you, your partner, social worker or close friend/whanau.  


The role of staff members is to provide your child with an education so the discussion should focus on how best to support your child and remove barriers so your child can access the curriculum. It should be a positive experience for all.


If you can go into this meeting as a fellow 'assistant' in this team process, it becomes easier to detach from all the parental emotions you might experience.  If you feel your voice is not being heard or you feel bullied at any point, refer to the Inclusive Education section on this page

AS Education - Facebook Pages/Groups

"To achieve literacy, there must be reading. To achieve reading, it must be meaningful. To achieve meaningfulness, there must be communication. To achieve communication, there must be experience. To achieve experience, there must be opportunity. To achieve opportunity, there must be care and understanding.” (Laurie Hinzman).

Information for Teaching professionals

AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) in the Classroom

AS and Literacy 


Supporting AS in the Classroom


Writing – using alternative pencils

Writing with 'alternative pencils' involves using any method of writing that doesn't necessarily use an actual pencil. This can be in the form of paper flip charts,  eye gaze boards, keyboards, alphabet charts on communication devices, etc. The following articles describe different ways of approaching writing with students who can not independently access traditional writing tools.

Anxiety and Challenging Behaviours

Anxiety is a key concept to understanding the student with AS. Many of the challenging behaviours displayed by these students are related to anxiety and frustration. Typical anxiety-producing situations include:

  • Transition times

  • Teasing/Bullying

  • Unclear communications or instructions


It is important to do the following:

  • Access and model an appropriate communication system/device as early as possiblePost a time-table for the student

  • Give a warning when a transition is about to occur

  • Make clear who is to address their particular needs

  • Communicate AS needs to other classmates as appropriate


A General Learning Profile for a student with Angelman syndrome

Relative learning strengths:

  • Good long-term memory skills

  • Receptive language

  • Basic maths skills

  • Basic reading skills

  • Good visual skills/memory

  • Social and friendly

Learning Weaknesses:

  • Expressive language (needs AAC system)

  • Poor gross motor skills (including balancing skills)

  • Sometimes poor fine motor skills

  • Sequential processsing deficit

  • Difficulty with abstract concepts

  • Poor short-term memory

  • impulsive

Some Practical Tips:

  • Visual schedules

  • Use flash cards and/or picture symbols to communicate wants, needs and transitions

  • Verbal reminders

  • Once things are set in motion, it can be difficult to be flexible

  • No more than two-step directions

  • Adapted assignments or homework

  • Ask – don’t demand

  • Extra travel and set-up time

  • Provide opportunities for student to work in pairs

  • Social skills programmes

  • Provide opportunities for physical activity

  • Empower all who are involved with the student to be an authority

  • Use social stories to teach life skills

  • Reciprocal communication between home and school when changes occur

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