The Ombudsman on the issues of providing for children with special educational needs

The Ombudsman received several petitions over the last year, in which parents complained that, due to the shortage of competent specialists, their children with special educational needs would not receive the care and education recommended by the education counsellor and the expert committee. In the report on his investigation, the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights pointed out several anomalies and made some recommendations.

In his report on a comprehensive, ex officio investigation, Ombudsman László Székely uncovered an impropriety in connection with the requirement of due process and the protection of the paramount interest of the child. He pointed out, among others, that the relevant expert opinions did not meet the content requirements provided by the law. He also called attention to the fact, that the procedure would take at least two months, even if the statutory deadline for expert proceedings was met, and it might prevent children from getting the special care and treatment they need. The failure to meet the already lengthy procedural deadlines is usually caused by the shortage of specialists in the staff of the pedagogical services. The Ombudsman found that the preparedness of expert committees was not always sufficient as far as psycho-diagnostics and pedagogical diagnostics in the field of Autism Spectrum Disorders were concerned. The report of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights also states that the directory of institutions available to the expert committee is not comprehensive, and the designated institutions often lack the conditions necessary for handling the children's special educational needs.

The institutions designated for the development of children with special educational needs often explain their failure to provide care or the provision of inadequate care with the shortage of space and specialists. In the case of certain children, missing development care for six months or a year may cause a serious setback in their state of health and development. An established practice is that the development of such children is taken care of during normal class hours. However, it may lead to setbacks in acquiring the regular learning materials, and catching-up means additional burden on the children who, instead of receiving special care, would fall further behind in their studies.

Providing integrated early years childcare for children with special educational needs is the responsibility of the local governments; however, if a local government is not capable of fulfilling this responsibility, the state (the Klebelsberg Institution Maintenance Center) will step in through its travelling special education teacher service network. However, this service has its own operational problems: taking over the responsibilities of the local governments further aggravates the workload of this special pedagogical service already suffering from the shortage of specialists. As a result, the development of all eligible children cannot be fully guaranteed. There is a shortage of specialists in the fields of speech therapy and early years and primary school psychiatric care; furthermore, the educational program of teachers does not fully cover the education and integration of students living with autism.

The Commissioner for Fundamental Rights sent his conclusions and other recommendations found in his report to the Minister of Human Resources and the Klebelsberg Institution Maintenance Center. The full text of the report in Hungarian may be found at www.ajbh.hu.