There are special needs schools throughout the Netherlands. Regional centres of expertise (regionale expertisecentra, REC) have been set up to cater for children with special needs. If you are unsure of what kind of support is needed for your child, a good place to start is your huisarts (GP). They will be able to provide you with an assessment. Please note that a letter from the GP will be helpful to find the appropriate support. The same applies if you have a child with a diagnostic already settled in a certified institution abroad.
Children who are physically healthy but have learning difficulties or exhibit mild behavioural problems will normally begin their schooling in a mainstream primary school. This is in line with the Dutch national education law that children with special needs (kinderen met rugzakje) must be given a place at a school that suits their abilities and potential, even if they need additional support. Meaning that a child with special needs cannot be refused at a regular school unless there is a severe physical disability, chronic illness or serious behavioural problems. The school will have up to six weeks to evaluate if the child can be admitted. Only in the case that the school cannot provide with the appropriate support, you will then be referred to another regular or special school. You can find further information about this topic at the government’s website (in Dutch only): www.rijksoverheid.nl/onderwerpen/passend-onderwijs/vraag-en-antwoord/hoe-krijgt-mijn-kind-passend-onderwijs
Special schools are funded by the Dutch government in a similar manner to the mainstream schools. The municipality is given responsibility for providing places at these special schools. There are two types of special schools:
An organisation called MEE can help you find, among other things, an appropriate school for your child. They specialise in supporting people with learning difficulties or physical handicaps. Their website is Mee.nl (in Dutch only). However we have listed below some of the centres and schools that can provide additional support to children with special needs in case you wish to do your own research:
Dedicated Special Education International School in the Hague (ages 2½-13)
International schools with special education department
Support groups and expert centres
There is a Dutch website with the list of addresses detailing where you can get additional help for your children. The kindertherapeuten (child therapists) are available all over the Netherlands and you can locate them on the interactive map here (in Dutch only).
ACCESS also has a Counselling Service Network (CSN) which consists of licensed English-speaking professionals with practices all over the Netherlands. Counsellors are men and women who are psychologists, mental health counsellors and social workers from a variety of different cultural backgrounds. All counsellors have a minimum of a Master’s level degree with at least two years supervised work experience. Please visit the ACCESS website for more information.