Inclusion of children with disabilities - Nursery schools
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Finding a suitable nursery school
Starting nursery school marks a child's first step towards independence. Specialists involved in your child's care will be happy to advise you on finding the most suitable nursery school for them. Parents/guardians should aim to visit all the nursery schools that might be suitable for their child in person, and to discuss their options with the school's headteacher and all the relevant members of the teaching and care teams.
Children at nursery are under less pressure to perform than they will be at school, and motivation to accept children with disabilities at nursery schools is stronger than in schools. However, the attitudes of the people who will be working with your child are key to ensuring they are properly integrated into the group.
In principle, you have three options when sending your child to nursery school. You can send them to a general nursery school, a nursery school with integrative groups for children with special needs, or a special nursery school providing medical care alongside education.
Integrating children with disabilities into the education system represents a major opportunity for all children, and particularly for preschoolers. Children in this age group have even fewer prejudices than older children, and learning together in a social environment plays a key role in all nursery schools.
When choosing a nursery school for your child, you should also consider whether the school will provide the right conditions for your child.
- Factors to take into account might include the size of class groups, how the nursery space is laid out, whether the nursery staff are suitably trained, whether they can provide treatments, etc.
- The personality of the nursery teacher(s) is also very important. You should make sure they are fully aware of your child's abilities and needs.
- If you decide to place your child in a general nursery school, it might be helpful for you to talk to other parents at the preparatory parents' meeting about your child's disability so that they are aware of it.
There is no legal entitlement to a place at an integrated nursery school.
In an integrative education system, children with disabilities are taught and looked after alongside their non-disabled peers.
This integrative approach is designed to counter the marginalisation of disabled people and prevent discrimination against them, and to make it a matter of course for children and young people to have friends and playmates who express themselves differently, or have different capabilities.
Integrated education also serves to promote learning in a social environment, which is very important for all children, whether they have a disability or not. Extensive practical experience and many scientific studies conducted over recent years have shown that all children benefit from learning together in social groups.
For this approach to work as it should, it is very important that the right conditions are in place. Key factors include:
- Group size and teacher-pupil ratio.
- The motivation of parents and school staff
- The layout of the nursery space
- Getting the right games, worksheets, etc.
If you attend preparatory meetings before your child starts nursery school, you may find that some people are sceptical about teaching your child, or refuse to accept them. These responses are often a result of a lack of awareness and fear of the unknown. Parents should not be deterred by such attitudes, and should ensure they have a full and frank discussion about their child, including their precise needs and abilities.
Parents' groups or associations may be able to provide valuable information. Members of these groups may have been personally affected by these issues, and often have years of experience in this area.
The relevant office in your local provincial administration or your District Authority, as appropriate
- If you live in Vienna, contact office MA 11 – The Office for Young People and the Family (→ Stadt Wien)German text
Some provinces have special advice centres you can contact.
You can find more information about integrated nursery schools in the Guide on the Inclusion of People with Disabilities (Behinderten-Inklusion-Dokumentation - BIDOK) produced by the University of Innsbruck's Institute of Education. Please note that this guide is only available in German.
- Behinderung-Inklusion-Dokumentation (→ BIDOK)
- Early years support (→ Office of the Lower Austria Provincial Government)German text
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