Special needs education

Key terms: Legal framework conditions in special needs education

Special needs education concerns children and young people with special educational requirements. These children and young people benefit from special measures for their education (from birth to their 20th birthday). They have a right to special schooling and support from specialists in early childhood special needs education, scholastic special needs education, language therapy or psychomotor therapy. There is a special educational requirement for children and young people, where it is ascertained, that development is restricted or hazarded, or that they are unable to meet the usual school standards without special support. In addition, special needs education applies to children and young people, who are shown to have great difficulty in social competence, as well as in learning and performance abilities.

Evaluation, diagnosis and decision

There are specific agencies in the cantons (including school psychological services) that provide case evaluation, diagnosis, guidance counselling and treatment. Special needs schooling is offered after an application, an evaluation of the case and an admittance decision. Applications may be made, in the first instance, by teachers, physicians, special services (e.g. school psychological services), school authorities and guardianship authorities.

Evaluations and decisions
In most cantons, the school psychological services, child and adolescent psychological services, or other specialists are responsible for making the evaluations.

The decision as to whether a child with special education needs will attend a normal school (integrative schooling) or a special needs school is made according to the standardised evaluation procedure. This procedure is used in order to systematically record various information about the child. Here, the intention is not for individual characteristics (e.g. an impairment) to trigger measures, but for the actual needs to be determined on the basis of transparent developmental and educational goals. The evaluation is made in two standardised process steps (basic evaluation and needs evaluation). In turn, these steps are subdivided into individual elements and are applied when collecting data from various sources of information.

The standardised evaluation procedure enables those who use it (school psychological service, evaluation agency) to make a comprehensive, multi-dimensional evaluation and it constitutes an initial basis for targeted support in the intended setting. The standardised evaluation procedure is applied if the locally available resources for special needs education are insufficient and additional resources have to be provided for education and training. This procedure serves the cantons primarily as a basis for decision-making upon arrangement of enhanced special needs education measures.

The introduction of the standardised evaluation procedure dispenses with the disability insurance criteria, which previously were based primarily on limits. Now, when determining requirements, attention is paid to the developmental and educational goals of the children and young people.

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Last update of this page: 28.10.2021