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Choosing the right school

Exploring special needs education and options

Photograph: iStock

Text: Martina Popadakova / Sara R. Newell

As a parent of a child with special needs, you will be faced with making decisions regarding how your child's special education needs can be met. This article explores special education in mainstream schools (Folkeskole), what you should expect, and what you should consider when deciding which options are best for your child.

Special education assistance

In most cases, children are integrated into mainstream schools. Children whose special educational needs require assistance at least 9 hours per week should be eligible for special education support in a mainstream school. Special education services are provided by the municipality and can be provided in many different ways. Ideally, they should be offered in a way that meets your child's needs. In most cases, children with special education needs remain in a mainstream school and receive special education and extra assistance. However, not all students benefit from remaining in a mainstream school and may need other unique education options.

Elements of special education

Special education is part of the special pedagogical assistance in mainstream primary and lower secondary schools and should include:

  • Special educational counselling for parents, teachers, or others whose efforts have a significant impact on the child's development

  • Special teaching materials and technical aids, which are necessary to provide education to the child

  • Education in primary and lower secondary school subjects, which are carried out according to the child's abilities and special education needs

  • Education and assistance should help the child to develop strategies for compensating for their disabilities

  • Personal assistance related to practical difficulties during school.

Assessing your child's needs for special education

Pedagogical Psychological Services (Pædagogisk Psykologisk Rådgivning) assesses whether your child meets requirements for special education and extra assistance. You usually can contact PPR for information about clarifying which school will meet your child's educational needs, as well as information and advice on your options when choosing a school. If your child is already attending a mainstream school, it is up to the school principal to involve PPR. PPR conducts an assessment of your child's educational needs and decides which special education option should be offered to your child. PPR must consult with parents before making an official decision. Parents' wishes must be clearly stated in the official decision, and parents must give their consent that their child may receive special education assistance.

PPR conducts an assessment of your child's educational needs and decides which special education option should be offered to your child.

Most often, an attempt will be made to include your child in the mainstream school. Children with special needs should be offered support in terms of differentiated teaching and supplemental education or social training in teams, with the support of the school. Teachers should be qualified to teach all children, including those with disabilities, since approximately 10 percent of children require some sort of special education assistance. The extent to which these general guidelines are followed, as well as the quality of special education options, will typically vary from school to school and from municipality to municipality.

Complaints about educational decisions

As previously mentioned, decisions regarding which school your child can enrol in must be made in consultation with you as a parent. If your child has significant special learning deficits which cannot be met in a mainstream school, it may be best for them to attend a school more appropriate for their specific special education needs.

The municipality you reside in has the overall authority to decide whether your child can enrol in a special education school instead of a mainstream school. If you disagree with the municipality's decision, you must submit a written complaint to the municipality no later than 4 weeks after you have received an official decision. You must receive an official decision in writing to file a complaint. If you file a complaint, you must do so through the municipality, and we strongly advise that you do so in writing. If the municipality maintains their original decision, you can appeal to the Special Education Appeals Board (Klagenævnet for Specialundervisning).

More in-depth information about filing a complaint, and the appeals process, will follow in upcoming issues.

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