Schooling for Children with Disabilities in Leuven

Navigating the Leuven education system can be a challenge for newcomers. For families with disabled children, the journey is often rockier with fewer signposts along the way.

We hope this information will help you orient yourself, avoid common pitfalls, and make the experience smoother and less exhausting.

Maya Parson and Hilary Jennings
21 May 2024

Where do I start?

If your child has a disability or you suspect that they do, the most important place to look for support from the school system is with the Center for Student Guidance (CLB). The CLB plays a central role in educational support for disabled children.

There are two CLBs that service the Leuven area: one for the GO! [Flemish community] schools, and another for the Vrij schools [public Catholic schools, Freinet schools, etc.]. If your child is already enrolled in a Flemish school, you should choose the CLB that corresponds to your school. (You can find this info on the websites above.) If you do not yet have a school for your child, you can contact the CLB that corresponds to the school where you intend/hope to enroll your child.

You can also contact your child’s school directly (if your child is already enrolled) to share your concerns. Every school has a zorg coordinator/begeleider (health coordinator) and you can reach out to them. Classroom teachers may also be a good resource.

How Does the Flemish Public School System Support Disabled Students?

Mainstream Public Education

In Flanders, there is limited support for children with disabilities in mainstream public education. Support is primarily coordinated through the school's zorg coordinator/begeleider, in conjunction with the CLB.

If your child is in mainstream education, formal agreements for support and accommodations can be made based on the child's needs, often following the advice of therapists and doctors. These agreements may include extended exam times, part-time schooling, exemptions from school in specific circumstances, or the use of technology to aid children with reading and writing difficulties.

Flemish classrooms typically have a high student-to-teacher ratio (24 students per teacher is common) and making exceptions, even for students with recognized disabilities, is not the norm. Parents of disabled children may find that there is less flexibility and support in mainstream schools than their children need or than they are used to elsewhere.

When it comes to accommodating disabled kids, mainstream public schools in Leuven are not all the same and parents may find that some schools offer a situation that is more supportive of their child’s needs. For instance, some schools are located in quieter neighborhoods, have elevators, or offer greater or lesser degrees of structure in the classroom. The pedagogical philosophy and student body can vary as well. It is important to consider the character of the school and visit if possible.

Public Special Education Schools

For students whose needs surpass what mainstream education can provide, public special education schools are sometimes an option. Placement in these schools is facilitated through the CLB in consultation with parents, schools, and medical experts. Special education schools in Leuven are well-regarded and staffed by experienced special education professionals. However, securing a spot in these schools is not guaranteed. Demand is high and exceeds availability. In some cases, students may need to commute to access specialized services outside the Leuven area.

A list of special education primary schools in Leuven and the surrounding area can be found in the 2023 school brochure. You can find information about registering for secondary special education on the Stad Leuven website.

Like mainstream schools, special education schools in Leuven are not all the same and it is worth your time, if possible, to visit the schools and learn about their offerings and character from staff and other families.

“Type” and “OV”

If you intend to enroll your child in special education, you will quickly encounter terms that may seem confusing, like Type 1 and OV2. These terms refer to the specific kinds of special education offered. Each Type (numbered 1-9) relates to a different form of disability. (For instance, Type 4 means a child with a motor disability). Each OV (Opleidingsvorm or Training Form, numbered 1-4) pertains to a different set of educational goals and expectations. Thankfully, you don’t have to memorize them all, but you can learn about the various Types and Forms on the Flemish education website so that you have a better sense of where your child would best fit in the system. Some special education schools only offer certain Types of education or certain Training Forms—not every special education school is suitable for every disabled child.

Further, not all Types and Forms are available at all grade levels and study tracks in Leuven. For instance, Type 9 OV4 education (education for autistic children with “normal” intellectual abilities) for the ASO track currently stops after grade 4 of secondary school in Leuven, which leaves some families scrambling for appropriate educational resources. If you are researching options for your child, it is a good idea to ask the CLB what your child’s options will look like beyond primary school in the Leuven area. In some instances, it may make more sense for a family to live closer to a school in another part of Flanders that suits their child rather than expect the child to commute.

Parents should also be aware that the limited spaces in special education schools are in some cases determined in part by the proximity of the school to a family’s place of residence. For children who get a spot in a school that is not close to their home, transport arrangements are sometimes possible through the special education system.

The school may provide their own school bus, picking the child up directly from home, and dropping them off. On each school bus there is a trained driver and supervisor. Commutes can be long and parents complain about the reliability of some school buses.

If the child lives far from the school, it may be possible for the child to board overnight at the school, in an 'internaat'. This can be full or part-time. Trained supervisors look after the child at nighttime. Parents are expected to contribute towards the cost of the internaat.

What if My Child Cannot Attend School for Health Reasons?

Schooling is mandatory from age 6 in Belgium. If your child cannot attend school due to their disability or related health issues, this is a concern to discuss with the CLB. In some instances (with medical and school support), children are able to study from home and a teacher can be provided at home for a limited time every week. If your child needs to stay in hospital for an extended period, they will be given education through the hospital school.

What Alternatives Exist to Public Education?

Private Schooling

Private schools offer varying degrees of support and accommodation for disabled students. As they are not legally mandated to provide such support, parents should carefully research the track record of individual private schools before enrolling their child.

Eureka School is a private school in Leuven for children with specific learning disabilities (dyslexia/dyscalculia) up to age 14.


Homeschooling is legal in Flanders, but parents do not receive educational support, and homeschooled secondary students must complete the same exams as non-homeschooled students (in Dutch). Some parents have successfully enrolled their children in accredited distance education programs with the CLB’s approval. It's worth noting that homeschooling rules are different and generally less restrictive in Wallonia and Brussels.

What Documentation Do I Need?

If you are moving to Flanders, you likely already have experience gathering up loads of paperwork and other documentation. Unfortunately, for parents of disabled children, the documentation burden is higher and can be a roadblock to obtaining support services in the schools and elsewhere. Make sure that you understand what you need and start the process of getting it as soon as possible–ideally before relocating.

To access educational support services, students typically need an official or provisional diagnosis and/or documentation from a medical professional, such as a psychiatrist or other specialist physician.

If your child does not have a diagnosis, you can seek a referral from your huisarts (general practitioner), but be aware that wait lists for specialists in Flanders can be very long. If you have the possibility of a medical diagnosis in your home country prior to relocating, it may be worth pursuing. (You may need to have the documents officially translated depending on the language.)

Who Else Do I Need on My Team?

Medical and Disability Experts

In Flanders, medical experts play an essential role in advocating and supporting a disabled child vis-a-vis the school system. It is highly recommended to find a huisarts and/or a pediatrician who understands your child's needs and will communicate with the CLB and schools about your child’s abilities and needs.

You may also find support from an orthopedagoog (special education specialist), psychologist, or therapist, but be aware that in the public school system, a medical doctor is necessary not only for diagnosis but also for paperwork and support services in the schools.

Disability Advocates and Support Groups

There are many groups that offer support to families with disabled children in Flanders, but most are Dutch speaking. Some, like Het Raster (which supports autistic people and their families, including advocacy with schools), will offer support to families in English if requested.

For those still learning the language, English language advocacy and support groups like Autism and Neurodivergent Leuven Support Group and ADHD ASC LD Family Resources Belgium can be a lifeline. These groups often include members who are multilingual and can provide advice in other languages as needed.

To find a Flemish support group for your specific situation, you can try searching for the name of the condition or disability and the words “patiënten groep” or “zelfhulp” via search engines and social media. You can also find lists of organizations on the Flemish Patient Platform and

Parent Support Organizations (not disability focused)

In Leuven, Huis van het Kind provides free support to all parents and can be a good resource for parents of disabled kids. They can recommend services and resources, including psychological, social, and financial support. On their website, they also provide an overview (in Dutch) of special education in mainstream and special education schools and links to Dutch-language disability advocacy groups. (If you search for “beperking”—Dutch for disability—you will find this and more on the website.)

Expat and International Parents Leuven is a Facebook group for families with children and a good place to ask about doctors, schools and more.

Parents interested in homeschooling can find information on the Homeschoolers Home Educators for English Speakers in Belgium Facebook group.

Some parents in Leuven have also found support through the Brussels Childbirth Trust.

Helpful Dutch Vocabulary

  • beperking = disability

  • zorg coordinator/begeleider = health coordinator

  • opleidingsvorm = training form

  • internaat = boarding school

  • huisarts = general practitioner

  • orthopedagoog = special education specialist

  • patiënten groep = patient (support/advocacy) group

Maya Parson and Hilary Jennings are neurodiversity advocates based in Leuven. They are the admins for the Autism and Neurodivergent Leuven Support Group, which welcomes new members.

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This page was last updated on: 27 May 2024