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The national legislation does not define special educational needs. The term is, however, understood broadly as depending on individual needs of a pupil or student. The need to offer support may result from, for example, a disability, specific learning difficulties, social maladjustment, behavioural or emotional disorders, long-lasting illness, traumatic situations or special talents.
Psychological and educational support is offered to all pupils and students with special educational needs, as well as to their parents, both within nursery schools and schools and by other institutions in the school education system, including counselling and guidance centres. Aside from specific arrangements as part of special education (see below), support may include, for example, activities such as classes developing aptitudes, learning skills or emotional and social competences, corrective and compensatory or remedial classes, speech therapy classes, an individualised learning path or programme, and homebased learning.
Education for students with special needs is an integral part of the school education system. It is provided to the following groups of children and young people on the basis of a certificate recommending special education, issued by a counselling and guidance centre:
- students with disabilities: with mild, moderate and severe intellectual disabilities; deaf and with hearing impairment; blind and with visual impairment; with a motor disability, including aphasia; with autism, including Asperger’s syndrome; and with multiple disabilities;
- students who are socially maladjusted;
- ·students at risk of social maladjustment.
At each stage of education and in any type of school, particularly gifted pupils may follow:
- an individualised study programme for one or more subjects / types of classes included in the school curriculum for a given year;
- an individualised learning path leading to completion of education in any school within a shorter period.
Regardless of the education for students with special needs setting, pupils and students with disabilities – except those with a moderate or severe intellectual disability, and socially maladjusted pupils and students and those at risk of social maladjustment – follow the same national core curricula as their peers without disabilities for general education in preschool institutions, and for general and, where appropriate, vocational education, in schools at all levels. Pupils or students with a moderate or severe intellectual disability follow a separate core curriculum in primary schools and special schools preparing for employment. For those with a severe intellectual disability, mainstream nursery schools and schools may organise compulsory education in the form of group or individual rehabilitation-and-education classes. Pupils or students who are unable to attend a nursery school or school due to their health may follow an individualised programme.
Each pupil or student in education for children and youth with special needs has an individual education and therapy programme. It is based on recommendations made in the education for children and youth with special needs certificate for the pupil or student, and developed by a team of teachers and specialists, where necessary, in collaboration with a counselling and guidance centre. The programme specifies, among other things, special classes or activities, including, in particular, rehabilitation classes / activities for a pupil or student with disabilities, social rehabilitation classes / activities for a socially maladjusted pupil or student, or social therapy classes / activities for one at risk of social maladjustment. The classes / activities are designed so as to improve the functioning of pupils or students and enhance their participation in the life of their nursery school or school and / or in the family and social environment. The programme is revised and adjusted, where necessary, on the basis of a periodic multi-faceted specialist assessment of the pupil’s or student’s functioning.
Rehabilitation classes for pupils or students with disabilities include therapy and rehabilitation activities. They may be conducted for a group or on an individual basis, depending on the pupils’ or students’ needs. The duration of such classes / activities in preschool institutions should be adjusted to individual needs. Where the new national outline timetables have been put in place as part of the school reform, the minimum duration of rehabilitation classes / activities in mainstream and integration classes of mainstream schools is 2 clock hours a week per pupil / student at all education levels. Based on the pre-reform outline timetables which are still in place in some schools or grades, the minimum number of class hours to be allocated to rehabilitation classes is:
- 190 hours per student in the 3-year education cycle in lower secondary schools and basic vocational schools;
- 180 hours per student in the 3-year education cycle in general upper secondary schools;
- 240 hours per student in the 4-year education cycle in technical upper secondary schools.