On October 8 I was invited to join the International Students from Queen Maud to attend a presentation by Statped. Statped is the organization that oversees special education services for all children from birth through their school years. It is a national agency managed by the Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training. It is also a provider of special education services support (reminded me of our ECSU model in Minnesota). This is a picture of the building in which Statped is housed that has universal design making it accessible for all individuals and the opening slide of the first presentation by the director.
We traveled by bus – here you can see my two wonderful Queen Maud hosts – Rasmus (the only male in the photo) and Siri (the woman with a red backpack) and the others are the International Students from Australia, Slovakia, Spain, Italy and the United States. I enjoyed getting to know these young women and hearing what they planned to do upon graduating.
The student from Slovakia actually holds a masters degree in education and came to Queen Maud to gain experience working with very young children. She hoped to be trained in ABA and would be only the 3rd person in her country to have this key training in working with students with autism. Each International Student had a background in working with children and was also assigned to a barnehagen site.
In Norway, Declaration of the right of the children 1989(UN) changed the laws of Norway regarding childrens’ right to participate. These are some key points highlighted for us.
- NORWEGIAN special education is grounded in the nation’s commitment to egalitarianism. Most special education takes place in regular schools, and kindergartens
- One quarter of Norway’s teachers have additional training in special education. Cautions are given if advocacy for those with disabilities does not accompany normalization.
While we were at Statped, we were asked to ‘read braille’ use some signs (note the ones chosen!) and ‘listen’ to two presenters who communicated throughout their presentation through sign (with interpreters). It was a wonderful example of ‘walking your talk’ and giving us an experience of using alternative means of learning and communicating.
Statped works in accordance with the Education Act and the Kindergarten Act to ensure: equivalent, adapted and inclusive education for everyone with special needs special education expertise in six specific areas:
- deaf-blindness/dual visual and hearing impairment
- acquired brain injury
- hearing impairment
- complex learning difficulties
- speech and language impairment
- visual impairment
There is also a national responsibility for services to Sami (Norways’ indigenous population). Sami children have the opportunity/right to learn Sami.
There is a national early intervention outreach initiative that is in collaboration with the National Health Service, Norwegian Labor and Welfare organization, Universities and Governors and leaders in municipalities .
For example, all newborns have a hearing screening. If a problem is found, babies at as young as 1 month of age begin attending classes with their parents to work on alternative communication. This is also a chance for parents to process their experiences and feelings with. Parents do not pay any fees for these classes or services. In addition, siblings are offered the opportunity to learn sign. Parents are given time away from work to participate in being educated in how to work with their child. As children get older there are opportunities to go to special camps to increase their skills. This intensive work with parents was very impressive.
This is an example of one of the posters used in outreach. So much like our Help Me Grow outreach work.
On the bus ride back to Queen Maud, we discussed how impressed we all were with the support to the family and the very advanced use of technology to ensure all children can communicate and learn. Thank you to the Statped staff for an amazing presentation!