A Short Guide for International Parents

Special Educational Needs in Denmark


So, you and your family just moved or are planning to relocate to Denmark. You are trying to work out everything from how the tax system works to which type of the millions of milks in Føtex is the best choice for the breakfast.
On top of that, your child has special educational needs, and you struggle to understand which educational offer is the best fit for him/her. Keep reading and we will provide you with a (simpler) overview about where to go and what to do.

First of all: what does “special educational needs” mean in a Danish context?

Special educational needs make up a big umbrella of children who have mental and physical disabilities as well as learning difficulties.

For instance, intellectual and physical disabilities may relate to Down syndrome, or hearing impairments. Learning difficulties are instead those difficulties that challenge an effective learning process, such as dyslexia or ADHD. Learning difficulties may be also connected with psychological disorders such as anxiety or depression.


Did you know that children with special educational needs

 make up  6,4% of the Danish school population.

[Source: Statistics Denmark].


Which special education?

In Denmark, all students have the right/duty to follow the same curriculum. But how is that possible in all situations? The answer is simple: the school system is based on an inclusion idea – i.e. education must include everyone, no matter which difficulties he/she has.

So, forget the idea of “one-size fits all”: here students are heard, and the educational support is based on their needs. The bigger the need is, the bigger (and more comprehensive) the help is.

Thus, students who need less than 9 hours/week of extra-support, usually follow the same day structure of their classmates. Meanwhile, they get support by various measurements which aim at helping them thrive in the everyday school business. For instance, children with dyslexia may be supported using a text translator to facilitate their reading process.

Students who need more than 9 hours/week of support that can be met in the mainstream school are usually educated with their peers, while joining some extra-school lessons or parallel classes for specific subjects. For instance, a student who need to improve his/her Danish language skills may follow most of the lessons with their classmates, while attending Danish as a second language class during or after the normal school hours.

In doubt about whether your child has a learning difficulty such as dyslexia? Check out Drive’s consulting services!

Did you know that the inclusion law

is named 693 – 2014?

But if the mainstream school support isn’t enough?

If so, your child has the right to access special classes. These can be within the current school or at either special needs schools or in day treatment centers – dagbehandlingstilbud. The difference between these three offers is based on the support they assure to the students.

Special class within a mainstream school and special needs schools focus mainly on the learning process. Instead, day treatment centers offer a wide range of educational support such as psychological therapy, family counselling, physiotherapy, speech and language therapy. As you can see, the bigger the need of the student is, the bigger (and more comprehensive) the help.

Keep in mind that, even though there is a greater focus on the “treatment” part (e.g. psychological therapy), day treatment centers also follow the Danish Primary and Lower Secondary School Act when it comes to how many lessons and which classes the students must be taught, the actual curriculum etc.

Read more about Drive’s special needs school (dagbehandlingsskole) here.

Did you know that an average school day

is 6 hours in Denmark?

Who decides which type of educational support my child needs?

Let’s assume you have concerns about your child’s need. Where to go from there? You have to follow these 4 steps:

  1. Address your concerns with your child’s current school, teachers and head-teachers. It is important not to feel alone in this process, and with the teachers you can uncover whether the current school can meet your child’s needs – e.g. in the general education, through aids or supplementary teaching, or if something else is needed.
  2. Get in touch with PPR/PPSthe municipality’s Pedagogical Psychological Counseling. You can do it alone or in collaboration with the school professionals. In the request to PPR/PPS, you have to describe why you wish to initiate an assessment of your child’s needs. You also have to provide descriptions of which support initiatives have already been provided.
  3. Get an educational-psychological assessment (PPV) produced by the PPR/PPS. This document evaluates your kid’s academic, personal and social potentials and skills. It also gives a suggestion on how to tackle the child’s challenges.
  4. Await the decision on implementation of special educational assistance. In case your child needs a school offer outside the current school, it is the municipal council (via a special committee) that makes the decision on the basis of the PPV. In the case your child’s need will be catered for at the current school, it is the headteacher who makes the decision referring to the PPV and after consultation with you as a parent.


Did you know that PPR stands for

Pædagogisk Psykologisk Rådgivning?


Once special education, always special education?

Well, actually not. At least once a year, the PPR/PPS, the school head teacher, your child and you will gather together to assess whether a special educational program is still relevant and right for your child, or if he/she is able to attend a mainstream school along with some support measurements.

And now what?

Ok, your child needs to attend a special needs school. But which one? The easy solution is to join the school that the PPR/PPS suggests based on the criteria of best fit for your child. This is usually in your residential municipality. Nevertheless, you may wish something different for your kid.

As a parent, you have a “free choice” when it comes to choosing your child’s school – if the school has open seats and if the school offer corresponds to the need described by the municipality’s PPR/PPS.

In other words, the school offer that you choose – either public or private – must offer the same level of assistance recommended in the PPV. Bear in mind that school transportation may not be covered if you choose a special needs school outside your residential municipality.

In Denmark, there are almost 300 special educational institutions where you can decide from. Nevertheless, it is worth mentioning that few of them offer teaching in other languages than Danish. Thus, if you are an international family residing in Denmark for few years, it may be a good idea to look for some of them.

Want to know more about Drive School of Motivation – an international day special needs school/treatment center in Billund?