7.1 Kindergartens and children with special needs

Special educational support

Special educational support for children under compulsory school age is enshrined in Section 5-7 of the Education Act. The right to special educational support applies to all children under compulsory school age who have a particular need for such support. In other words, a child does not need to attend kindergarten in order to receive special educational support. Nor does the child need to have been given a diagnosis. The key question is the extent to which the child is in particular need of special educational support. The entitlement to special educational support covers a wide range of supportive measures in addition to special needs education. Special educational support could involve supporting a child’s language, social or motor development, all of which are key factors in the child’s well-being and overall development. Special educational support should always include an offer of parental guidance and advice.

Kindergartens should offer individually adapted and equitable provision, and they should help create a meaningful childhood for all children regardless of functional ability, place of residence and social, cultural and ethnic background. Kindergarten staff must ensure that all children feel that they and everyone else in their peer group are important members of the kindergarten community.

Kindergartens must be adapted to welcome all children. This means designing a physical environment that facilitates all children’s active participation in play and other activities.

Kindergartens have a particular responsibility for preventing learning difficulties and can make special arrangements for children with particular needs.. Adaptation may include special social, pedagogical and/or physical provision.

The extent of special needs provision in kindergartens

In 2013 just under 7,000 (2.4 percent) of all kindergarten children were given special educational support, 381 more than in 2012. There has been a steady, yet modest, increase in the number of children receiving special educational support in kindergartens in recent years.

In comparison, 3.8 percent of all children in Year 1 received special needs education in 2013. One explanation of this gap is that the demands set by schools identify additional challenges, the need for additional support therefore grows and is perceived as more pressing (Cameron et al. 2011).

96.5 percent of all 3 to 5-year olds attend kindergarten. Since most of the children receiving special educational support are over 3 years of age (Rambøll 2011), we have reason to believe that most of them attend kindergarten.

A study conducted by Rambøll (2011) found that around half of children receiving special educational support, received fewer than five hours of special educational support a week, while a third received between five and 10 hours.

Special needs provision in kindergartens is often associated with language development and behavioural problems (Cameron et al 2011). Support is primarily provided in the form of direct help, or initiatives to assist the child, and usually entail enlisting additional staff. Guidance for kindergarten staff and parents or guardians is also a major part of special needs provision. Provision for most children who require special educational support involves language stimulation, conceptual stimulation and social training (Rambøll 2011).

Table 7.1 Kindergarten children with decisions on special educational support. 2010–2013. Numbers and percentage.

Year Number Percent
2013 6,958 2.4
2012 6,577 2.3
2011 6,482 2.3
2010 6,213 2.2


Source: BASIL/The Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training

The percentage of children receiving special educational support varies between municipalities

The proportion of children receiving special educational support in kindergarten varies from 0 percent to just over 10 percent across municipalities. In 52 municipalities, no children have been assigned special educational support. Kindergartens may still have made special adaptations for children without formally assigning special educational support.

In just over half of all municipalities, between 1 percent and 3 percent of kindergarten children receive special educational support whereas in 18 municipalities the figure is more than 6 percent.

Inclusion of children with special needs in kindergarten

Kindergartens appear generally good at including children with special needs. Cameron et al. (2011) point out that kindergartens are among the most inclusive institutions in the education system. Kindergarten staff is very conscious about ensuring inclusive practices (Solli and Andresen 2012). The kindergarten’s role as an inclusive arena relies upon staff to understand their roles and duties when dealing with a diverse group of children and upon how they facilitate interaction (Solli 2012).

Proceedings for special needs provision and education