STUDENT SUPPORT: Counselling, EAL and Special Needs

ISNS provides support services to student through our Counselling, EAL and Learning Support (SEN) departments.  You may visit their individual pages for more information.

Student Support Policies, Procedures and Levels of Support

Adapted from Nanjing International School’s Learning Support Handbook, September 2018  

The Student Support Team (SST) at ISNS works to help students reach their full potential as successful, empowered learners within an inclusive educational environment. 

The ISNS Student Support Team (SST) includes: 

  • Student Support Department Head
  • Learning Support Teachers
  • PYP Literacy Coordinator
  • PYP Math Coordinator and Math Resource Teachers 
  • Counsellors
  • EAL  

Admission of Students with Exceptionalities 

Information Required for Admission 

  1. A current school report, plus the final school reports from the previous two school years 
  2. An Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or similar Learning Support Plan from the previous school (if applicable) 
  3. A psycho-educational evaluation (if applicable) 
  4. Standardized test scores 

All student information contained in admissions files is confidential and will be shared with discretion and professionalism. 

Parental disclosure: In order for us to understand each student’s learning profile and to plan appropriate educational opportunities, we require that parents disclose essential information related to their child’s learning at the time of their application. We appreciate open and transparent dialogue that occurs between home and school.  

The Admissions Process 

  1. The Admissions Office collects and compiles complete application documents from the family, previous schools, and any other related organizations or professionals.
  2. If there is an indication that the student has special needs, the file is sent to the Principal and the relevant Student Support Team members for review and discussion.
  3. After collection of additional information and/or further discussion, the Principal makes a recommendation regarding admission to ISNS.
  4. The Head of School makes the final admission decision. 

In order to maintain an effective student teacher ratio and ensure service of high quality, we offer a limited amount of space for students with special needs. 

Students with significant intellectual, physical, behavioral, emotional and/or psychological challenges requiring intensive one-on-one support (i.e. more than 10 periods per week) cannot be supported by ISNS. ISNS only accepts students with mild to moderate learning needs (i.e. learning disabilities, ADHD, mild autism, etc.).  

Referral Process 

“The referral process is undertaken when there is a recognition that there may be issues surrounding a child’s learning that require the collective attention of a group of educators (specialists and generalists alike). It is not “a transfer of responsibility from the classroom teacher to the Learning Support teacher”.  (A Practical Guide for School Leaders: K. Pelletier, K. Bartlett, W. Powell, O. Kusuma-Powell). 

  • When a classroom teacher has ongoing concerns about a student’s learning, language, literacy, math, or social-emotional needs, they begin by filling in the SST referral form.  The SST will review the case and designate a specialist (Learning Support Teacher, Counsellor, EAL Teacher, Math Resource teacher, etc.) to take on the case.
  • A meeting with the teacher and the designated intervention specialist will be scheduled.  The specialist will help the classroom teacher to set up in-class interventions and documentation through consultation and modeling. This step will be documented through ManageBac to inform parents. 
  • After 4-6 weeks, the specialist and classroom teacher will look over the data and either continue the intervention if there has been progress, try a new intervention, or, if little or no progress has been made, begin pull-out interventions. The Managebac notes will be updated and a meeting with parents is required to let them know of concerns. 
  • After 6-8 weeks of pull-out intervention, the specialist and teacher meet again to review progress. If progress has been made, the child will begin a new round of pull-out interventions or return to receiving classroom interventions. If little or no progress has been made, the appropriate members of the SST will meet to discuss the need for external assessment to gauge whether the child needs learning support for a diagnosed condition. The team will review the data and prepare to request assessment from the parents. 
  • A request for external testing must be made via formal letter of referral on school letterhead for the parent to take to the evaluator. The letter should be signed by an ISNS SST member, principal or administrator, and the parent(s). A copy of the letter of referral is placed in the student’s file. Only ISNS specialists (such as a Learning Support Teacher or Counsellor) can recommend external testing. 
  • After this meeting, the appropriate member of the SST will take over to provide intensive and long-term interventions while waiting for the external assessment. After the meeting with parents requesting the external assessment, the school will follow up within 6 weeks to track whether it has occurred. If the family fails to schedule and follow through on the assessment, there is a risk the child will be required to leave the school. 

The decision for a student to receive support is made in collaboration with and consent from the parents. 

Referral Process

Discussions concerning medication should only occur based upon recommendations from a professional, for example, a clinical psychologist in an evaluation recommends the family consider pharmaceutical intervention. Only relevant specialists such as medical practitioners or psychiatrists can recommend medication. 

Levels of Support 

Factors considered when assigning a level include: 

  • Student’s academic progress, in relation to grade level expectations 
  • Amount of time student requires Learning Support 
  • Psycho-educational evaluation results 
  • Type of support needed 
  • Other services needed (i.e. OT, PT, SLP, EAL, counseling, etc.) 

Types of external support accessible in Shenzhen or Hong Kong that parents pursue outside of ISNS: 

  • Educational psychologists (various languages) 
  • Speech & Language Therapy (SLP) 
  • Occupational Therapy (OT) 
  • Physical Therapy (PT) 

The Learning Support Team mainly provides two levels of support to students with a diagnosis: 

Level 1 - Consultant 

Students participate in the same curriculum content as their peers with the same learning outcomes and they benefit from instruction in the classroom but may need accommodations to access and to demonstrate understanding of the curriculum. 

Students may receive support in the following ways: 

  • Informal in-house screenings and assessments  
  • Consultative support from an SST member with classroom teachers 
  • Monitoring and class observations by an SST member 
  • Assist with technology in class and/or for assessment purpose 
  • The SST member writes and helps with the implementation of a Classroom Accommodation Plan (CAP) or Behavior Plan Counseling support as needed 
  • May receive external services like OT, PT, SLP, or tutorial services outside of the regular ISNS school day  

Typically, these students may have a range of achievement on or below grade level but not exceeding one to two years in the Primary Years Program (PYP), and 2-3 years in the Middle Years Program (MYP) in any given learning area. 

Exit criteria: Students are working with expected level of independence at grade level standards for a sustained period based on common assessments. 

Level 2 – Direct Student Support 

Students participate in the same curriculum content as their peers with mostly the same learning outcomes but require accommodations and/or some modifications to one or more curriculum areas to access and demonstrate understanding of the curriculum. 

Students may receive support in the following ways: 

  • Informal in-house screenings and assessments 
  • Monitoring and class observations by an SST member
  • Consultative support from an SST member with classroom teachers 
  • Assist with technology in class and/or for assessment purpose 
  • Push-in or pull-out intervention sessions and/or small group instruction (requiring an Learning Plan (LP)) 
  • The SST member creates and implements a LP with the classroom teacher 
  • Up to ten periods of support per week, including prep time (including EAL and other support services) 
  • Counseling services as needed 
  • May receive external services like OT, PT, SLP, or tutorial services outside of the regular ISNS school day 

Typically, these students may have a range of achievement on or below grade level but not exceeding two to three years below grade level in any given learning area. 

Exit criteria: Students who have moved to one to two years below level in the PYP, and 2-3 years grade level standards in the MYP for a sustained period based on common assessments will move to Level 1 support. If students are working with expected level of independence at grade level standards for a sustained period based on common assessments, they will exit the support system. 



Supports built into instruction and or assessment intended to help a student fully access the grade level curriculum without changing the student learning outcomes. This provides equitable instruction and assessment for students by reducing or eliminating the effects of a student’s disability. Accommodations will be documented with a Classroom Accommodation Plan (CAP) for each student who is identified as needing supports. 

Accommodations may include: 

  •       Preferred seating 
  •       Extended time for assignments and exams 
  •       Allowed use of assistive technology 
  •       Alternative format for demonstrating understanding of material 
  •       Instructions broken down into sequential steps 
  •       Use of graphic organizers/scaffolds 


A modification or change made to instruction and or assessment that may adjust the grade level learning or assessment expectations.  Most often, the resulting product is not the same as the student product without modification.  A student with modifications will have a LP in place, a diagnosed disability and an achievement gap. The modifications will be documented on student report card. 

Classroom Accommodation Plan: (CAP) 

A document which identifies recommended accommodations for a student to have access to the grade level expected outcomes.  

Learning Plan: (LP) 

A document which identifies areas in the school setting in which specific goals are to be worked towards by the student.  This will outline supports provided by the teaching team and family that will support the student in reaching grade level outcomes, including academic goals, social/emotional goals and or behavioral goals. This plan will identify recommended accommodations and modifications and is based on a diagnosed disability, in class performance, teaching team input and family input. Any modifications made will be noted on student report cards. This plan will be revisited at a minimum of every school year. 

In the Diploma Program (DP), all documentation regarding the specific learning need will be revised and any accommodation required will be requested to the IBO, College Board, or ACT. The external agency will ultimately approve or not any accommodations for external tests and exams. IBO published documents such as “Candidates with assessment access requirements” (2013) along with recommendations in external psycho-educational evaluation inform accommodations in a student’s CAP or IEP in the MS and US. 

Transition Between Grade levels or divisions (Lower PYP, Upper PYP, MYP or DP) 

At ISNS, divisions work collaboratively to ensure that student needs are communicated and planned for in a way that facilitates a successful transition to the next section. 

Steps to Transition 

  • The designated SST member compiles detailed information about students receiving support, including CAPs, LPs, evaluations/reports, strategies, and other relevant data. 
  • If moving to a new grade level, the SST member notifies the new classroom teacher of the case and the new teacher sets up a meeting to review the case with parents, designated SST member, and administration if needed. If moving to the MYP/DP program, the SST member notifies the relevant MYP/DP SST member and DP Coordinator about the cases and provides them the necessary documents. 
  • The Student Support team meets with the relevant teachers and administrator to share information about students at the beginning of the school year. 


Confidential information is frequently shared among a student’s team of professionals. The purpose of sharing confidential and sensitive information is to better understand how a student learns.  It is a professional obligation of all ISNS faculty members to protect confidential information. 

Guidelines related to students receiving support: 

  • It is expected that all SST members will remind faculty about the confidentiality of student information.
  • Confidential conversations will take place in secure locations. 
  • Confidential information will not be left in public areas. 
  • Psycho-educational evaluations may be shared only with those teachers currently working with a student and will be maintained in the student’s file.

ISNS will not forward confidential records to other schools or outside agencies without the written consent of the student’s parent/guardian.