In Canada, “special needs” is a term used in clinical diagnostic and functional development to describe individuals who require assistance for disabilities that may be medical, mental, or psychological.
For instance, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and the International Classification of Diseases 9th edition both give guidelines for clinical diagnosis. Types of special needs vary in severity. Children with autism, Down syndrome, dyslexia, blindness, ADHD, or cystic fibrosis, for example, may be considered to have special needs. However, special needs can also include cleft lips and or palates, port wine birth marks, or missing limbs.
By law, all public schools in Quebec must have a special-needs education programme. However, this may not be possible in all schools. Parents may have to enroll their children in a school outside of their school zone or may choose to enroll their children in private special-needs schools. This can be difficult for some parents due to the cost, although some provinces/territories provide 100 percent funding in order for children to attend these schools.
Special-needs schools are available for children with physical, mental, behavioral and communication disorders, as well as for gifted children.