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Responding to children with special education needs

Children with specific education needs such as physical or cognitive impairments are in need of specialised care, including specialised staff, adapted environments or a more flexible group organisation. yet access to ECEC for these children is often inappropriate in oECD countries (oECD, 2006). in Latvia, children with special needs (including health or development impairments) can attend special education institutions or special education groups at general education institutions, or are integrated into general groups in institutions that offer special ECEC programmes (Eurypedia, 2015).

in 2013/14, there were 4 892 children with special needs enrolled in ECEC institutions. About one-third (1 616) were integrated into regular ECEC institutions leaving the majority in special ECEC institutions. When admitting a child with special needs, a regular ECEC institution can choose to provide a special education programme for several children with the same or similar special needs, or to admit the child and develop an individual Education Plan to ensure that adequate support is provided.

if a child shows any signs of special needs parents can contact municipality services for information about what kind of support is available and where they can receive it. The Municipal Pedagogical Medical Commission consists of different specialists - special education teachers, speech therapists, psychologists and sometimes doctors and social workers. They assess children and provide them with a “statement”. Most pre-school age children who attend special groups or special ECEC institutions have speech and language development problems. They are offered special support to develop their linguistic and communication skills, normally by a speech therapist and/or special education teacher (Eurypedia, 2015; MoES, 2015). in 2013 about 10% of children of pre-school age were attending special education programmes, while specialists estimate that around 20% could benefit from additional specialist help (MoES, 2015).

As stated previously, the vast majority of ECEC institutions belong to municipalities and it is their responsibility to provide adequate support for children and their families. in Latvia, as in several other countries like Estonia, Finland, Slovenia and the united Kingdom, the central government provides supplementary funding for children with additional educational needs. To date, this financial support is only provided for those children in special ECEC institutions and not those who are enrolled in regular ECEC institutions, thereby overlooking their special education needs (Calite, 2010; European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice/Eurostat, 2014).

 
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