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Autism and the Right to Education in the EU: Policy Mapping and Scoping Review of Nordic Countries Denmark, Finland, and Sweden

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Van Kessel, Robin 
Walsh, Sebastian 
Holt, Rosemary 
Yliherva, Anneli 


Abstract Introduction: The universal right to education for people with disabilities has been highlighted by the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In this paper, we mapped policies addressing the right to education and special education needs of autistic children in Denmark, Sweden, and Finland. Methods: A policy path analysis was carried out using a scoping review as an underlying framework for data gathering. Policy mapping was performed independently by both lead authors to increase reliability. Results and Discussion: The values of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities have been closely translated into the respective education systems of the countries under study, offering special education needs services and support in mainstream education with the aim of including as many children into mainstream education as possible. Even though the education systems are comparable, the approaches between the countries under study are slightly different. Denmark and Sweden have passed several policies specifically geared towards special education needs, while Finland incorporates this more in general education policy. Conclusion: All countries under study have incorporated the values of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in their respective education systems, while emphasising the need to include as many children in the mainstream system as possible.



Autistic Disorder, Databases as Topic, Denmark, Education, European Union, Finland, Human Rights, Humans, Policy, Sweden

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Molecular Autism

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BioMed Central


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Gillings Family Foundation
Dr Andres Roman-Urrestarazu’s work received funding from the Gillings Fellowship in Global Public Health and Autism Research, Grant Award YOG054. SBC, AR, and RH received funding from Innovative Medicines Initiative 2 Joint Undertaking (JU) under grant agreement No 777394. The JU receives support from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and EFPIA and AUTISM SPEAKS, Autistica, SFARI. They also receive funding from the Autism Research Trust, Autistica, the MRC, the Wellcome Trust and the NIHR Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre. The research was supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care East of England at Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, NIHR or Department of Health and Social Care.