A guide to special needs education in Switzerland, including the legal and financial needs of those with disabilities.
Special needs education in Switzerland implies that general compulsory education applies also to children and youngsters with visual or hearing impairments, physical and learning disabilities, mental retardation, and speech and behavioral disorders.
In Switzerland, the cantons are responsible for special needs education. In fact, there are about 100 centers for early childhood special education. Associations and foundations, as well as municipal and cantonal authorities sponsor these centers.
The special needs schooling consists of the following:
- Special needs schools subsidized by invalidity insurance
- Special needs classes closely linked to the regular school. These are only available in some cantons
- Outpatient help, guidance and therapy counseling
The first type of education is applicable to youths with mental impairments, physical disabilities, behavior disorders, deafness, and visual impairments. The schooling is subsidized by invalidity insurance.
The second type of special needs education provides introductory classes for compulsory education, classes with a limited number of students in primary education, transition courses, as well as classes offering learning of manual activities. These special courses and schools are not available in all the Swiss cantons, however.
Finally, outpatient help and therapy counseling includes specialized teaching support, speech therapy, treatment of dyslexia, therapeutic exercise, and physiological counseling.
Legal regulations for the education of the disabled are contained in cantonal education and school laws. The Federal Law on Overcoming the Inequalities affecting Handicapped People (LHand) guarantees equality of rights. It was first enforced in January 2004.
Special needs schooling receives funding through the cantons and invalidity insurance. The latter can also be claimed where there are physical or mental injuries to health caused by birth, illness, or accident.
For further information on special needs education in Switzerland, consult the following:
- Swiss Institute for Special Education (Lausanne) +41 (0)21 653 68 77
- Service Médico Pédagogique (Geneva) +41 (0)22 327 43 91