Special Needs Education

Understand what kind of assistance is available for children with special needs in the French school system...

Children with special needs can sometimes be catered for in mainstream schools. When this is not possible, there are special schools or learning from a distance.

It is the responsibility of the maison départementale des personnes handicapées (MDPH) to evaluate a child’s special needs and transfer the result to the Commission des droits et de l'autonomie des personnes handicapées (CDAPH). A personalised programme is created for the child (Projet personnalisé de scolarisation, PPS), which will determine the help required.

SESSAD (services d'éducation spéciale et de soins à domicile) deal with children and teenagers with mental, motor and sensory disabilities ensuring early education and support for the family (counselling and accompaniment to treatments) through to the end of compulsory education (and in cases through to university). SESSAD provides a bridge between the traditional schooling and the extra-school treatments and rehabilitation.

CLIS (classes d'intégration scolaire) is for children with disabilities too severe for schooling in regular classes, but not requiring special facilities. CLIS is a special class within an ordinary elementary or secondary school (although seldom available in pre-school facilities). The teaching is adapted to students needs but the curriculum taught is essentially the same as that taught in the regular classes There are 4 categories of CLIS:

  • CLIS 1 (D): Cognitive learning disorders, severe mental development limitations
  • CLIS 2 (A): Hearing impairment (troubles auditifs: sourds, malentendants)
  • CLIS 3 (B): Visual impairment (troubles visuels importants: aveugles, malvoyants)
  • CLIS 4 (C): Physical disability/severe motor deficiency
Admission to CLIS is decided by the CCPE (commission préélémentaire et élémentaire). UPI (unités pédagogiques d'intégration) units accommodate children with cognitive learning disorders from age 12 to 16 years (generally coming from CLIS 1). The UPI provides adapted school integration and partial participation through the teaching and activities. This system is being expanded to incorporate children with sight, hearing and physical disabilities. Commonly, learning assistance is handled outside of school hours by relevant therapists (and if the child is not coping at their level they may be held back). If the child needs constant or specific assistance, then they will be admitted to a specialist school. A family doctor will be able to advise further, as will the Mairie and the school in the relevant catchment area.