ACCESS NL > Education in the Netherlands > Dutch school system > Special needs education > My child has been diagnosed with a learning or behavioural difficulty/physical handicap. Are there any schools here in the Netherlands that cater specifically for children with special needs and how can I find one?
Special needs education
My child has been diagnosed with a learning or behavioural difficulty/physical handicap. Are there any schools here in the Netherlands that cater specifically for children with special needs and how can I find one?
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:
- Speciaal basisonderwijs – SBO (special primary education) schools, which cater for children who require support with their learning or who have mild behavioural needs such as: low IQ, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), delayed learning development, etc
- Speciaal onderwijs – SO (special education) for specific special needs or children who require intensive supervision. For example because they have a disability, chronic illness or disorder
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)
- Special International Primary Education: Lighthouse Special Education (ages 5-13). Find more information at Lighthousese.nl
- Inclusive Pre-school (part of Lighthouse Special Education): Three Little Ships International Pre-school (ages 2½-5). Visit Threelittleships.nl
International schools with special education department
- International School of Amsterdam
- The British School of Amsterdam
- Amsterdam International Community School
- American School of the Hague https://www.ash.nl/experience/inclusion
- The British School of the Netherlands
- The International School of the Hague
- European School the Hague
- Nord Anglia International School Rotterdam
Support groups and expert centres
- AAOF Autism Association for Overseas Families offers support and advise in English on the facebook page Autism Netherlands – AAOF
- ADHD Parent support group for international parents on Adhd.eseng.nl