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Old 06.05.2013, 06:14
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Moving to Zurich with disabled child

Hello Everyone -

We are moving to Zurich, our kids will be in public school, and one kid has some special needs. Does anyone have experience with special needs in Swiss public schools? In particular, are special needs kids integrated or isolated? Are they treated well or given a hard time? Are the schools responsive to kids' needs?

As an additional set of questions, can anyone with a disability comment on whether they find Zurich accessible and mobility friendly?

Thanks much,

SDTREX
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Old 06.05.2013, 07:29
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Re: Moving to Zurich with disabled child

I don't have a disability, but I don't find any city, especially European ones to be mobility friendly. lots of single steps up into stores, getting onto trams and buses, etc. i have been through them with a stroller and I have often wondered how people in a wheel chair can get along on their own. There definitely aren't laws like in the US that buildings need to be accessable like from the ADA, afaik

Good luck finding the info you need, and welcome!
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Old 06.05.2013, 07:35
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Re: Moving to Zurich with disabled child

Thanks for the quick response. I had the same impression about accessibility!
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Old 06.05.2013, 08:11
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Re: Moving to Zurich with disabled child

Perhaps. On the other hand, there are definitely plenty of wheelchair accessible buses, trains and trams in the cities, and systems in place for organising a wheelchair-accessible place in the regional trains and inter-country trains, and the airport is accessible.

There seem to be rules related to new buildings which require access (disabled toilets, ramps, lifts) - rather than focus on retro-fitting.

My daughter's local secondary school definitely has access ramps, lift, toilets, adapted for wheelchairs.

In central Zurich, I see a lot more people getting around with wheelchairs as well as plenty of people with other disabilities - more than I would have seen in Sydney, because people do tend to use the public transport, rather than cars...

Certainly, like anywhere, choosing somewhere with good services is going to be important, as well as appropriate housing and access to options for transport and schooling.

Resources will depend also on the local area, and vary greatly from Canton to canton. It depends on money, systems (each canton has it's own education system), and also whether they have been able to recruit staff - there is a shortage of specialised teachers and integration specialists, and it can take time to get things in place.

I would also ask whether you can access services in the local language ? That is going to make a big difference to the options that are open to you, and how easy it is to negotiate your way through the system.
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Old 06.05.2013, 10:19
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Re: Moving to Zurich with disabled child

Every public (or semi public building, like hotel, office building, apartment building etc) in Switzerland (and all other European countries) must me done according to building code that demands free access for disabled people.
This also applies for renovating old buildings, but usually there are some compromises made. Older buildings stay the same until the renovation is made.

Some info for example http://www.hindernisfrei-bauen.ch/index.htm
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Old 06.05.2013, 10:32
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Re: Moving to Zurich with disabled child

It depends on each particular school, really, and community. Two disabled kids aged 5 and 6 go to the same class as my child, and both have received a lot of special attention, school added an extra assistant to the teacher, both children move with the rest and study with the rest, take gym and trips with the rest of the class, with the help of capable staff (and fab teacher's mom, or parents who volunteer). I think the push to integrate within the class is fantastic, the class they are in is barrier free, toilets too, shops have elevators or direct access from the street. They both receive boost in terms of mental development and physical (en plus, both of them are new comers).

I think I would contact the office for schooling in the community you are thinking to move in, explain what limitations your child is facing and look together for a school that would suit the best, since probably not all classes or schools might be equipped, they will know the best. Then check out the housing.
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Old 06.05.2013, 11:25
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Re: Moving to Zurich with disabled child

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Hello Everyone -

We are moving to Zurich, our kids will be in public school, and one kid has some special needs. Does anyone have experience with special needs in Swiss public schools? In particular, are special needs kids integrated or isolated? Are they treated well or given a hard time? Are the schools responsive to kids' needs?

As an additional set of questions, can anyone with a disability comment on whether they find Zurich accessible and mobility friendly?

Thanks much,

SDTREX
Special needs is a very broad term. I appreciate that you may not want to be specific on a public forum but it is difficult to answer about schooling,particularly as you have not said how old your child is and if the children speak German at all.

On the housing side, it sounds like you will probably want to look for something on one level, or with a lift. If you need modifications made, best to be upfront with the landlord and negotiate modifcations up front.

I do not have any contacts in the areas of education in the canton of Zurich, but you might be better off making inquiries at the cantonal level with regards to your needs. They should be able to point you in the right direction.

Best of luck with this.
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Old 06.05.2013, 11:30
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Re: Moving to Zurich with disabled child

I have a friend who has an autistic son - he has been in the school and care system for 10 years or more and is now living in managed accommodation and working (with animals I think).

The impression I've had in those 10 years is that he's been VERY well looked after by the system and has developed immensely.

He has good points and bad points, however.
+ He loves James Bond
- He loves Eastenders!
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Old 06.05.2013, 11:31
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Re: Moving to Zurich with disabled child

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- He loves Eastenders!
Hey, we love Eastenders too, as it gives us insight into how life in the UK truly is!

Tom
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Old 06.05.2013, 17:59
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Re: Moving to Zurich with disabled child

Thanks everyone for the useful comments. Here are a few more bits of information and questions.

My son is 4, and he has the most common form of dwarfism, called achondroplasia. So he's small, but has no cognitive issues (though being raised by me will probably make him crazy!).

The biggest issues are adaptations and social issues.

Does anyone know if bullying or harassment are issues? Are kids and society accepting of differences?

Thanks again,

Scott
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Old 06.05.2013, 18:30
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Re: Moving to Zurich with disabled child

Oh oh .... this is going to become a bullying thread.

Before it does: my daughter is in a class with 2 special needs kids and they are definitely not bullied - the school works hard to ensure that there is tolerance for these kids. They are amazingly well integrated and very happy.

There are bullies in Swiss schools though - as everywhere - and bullying or mobbing is harder to recognize perhaps when the kid being bullied is not so apparently "special". This can sometimes go undetected.

So I would say this is a good place for your family. Good luck !

Lisa
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Old 06.05.2013, 19:42
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Re: Moving to Zurich with disabled child

I think the kids will be curious at first if there is a visible difference. A 3 year old who is very overweight attends my nursery and a lot of the kids seemed to want to pinch her cheeks or arms as if to see what she was made of. Once they got over that there is no difference what so ever in her acceptance.

It took a while for some European kids to accept the Indian kids because of the wonderful scent of exotic spices, they just smelled different, now there noses are used to it they have no problem....in fact, Lenny one of the Swiss kids is always first in line for special occasion Indian snacks. He say's "hmmm salzig"

It's been a joy to observe.
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Old 06.05.2013, 19:47
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Re: Moving to Zurich with disabled child

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There are bullies in Swiss schools though - as everywhere - and bullying or mobbing is harder to recognize perhaps when the kid being bullied is not so apparently "special". This can sometimes go undetected.

So I would say this is a good place for your family. Good luck !

Lisa
As you said, everywhere. There are bullies in the international schools as well.

Whether the OPs son needs to be in a "special class" is not a given.

What is the age deadline for starting kindergarten in Kt. Zurich?
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Old 06.05.2013, 21:07
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Re: Moving to Zurich with disabled child

The age deadline is turning 4 by the 30th of April. I don't see problems for the OP if his child has no congenital problems. If he moves into the vicinity of Oerlikon his child would be more than welcome at my playgroup.
Being honest though I think he's be better off in a German speaking playgroup.
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Old 27.04.2014, 14:40
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Re: Moving to Zurich with disabled child

Hello Everyone:

OP here. My son starts school in Zug tomorrow. First impressions, and I'll post more later when I have more information. In the US, with any special need, the school district would have had a meeting with us and developed a adaptation plan that we both agreed to. There's a formal process, minutes are taken, and lots of staff members are there.

Here, I emailed the school ahead of time, and they basically just told me to show up. Today, the day before school starts, I had a phone conversation with the kindergarten teacher. She had educated herself on the web about my son's condition (dwarfism) and had an informal plan that was very similar to what happened on the first day of school in the US.

I suppose we are in a different situation than many families because our son has no cognitive issues - he's just little. Complex emotional issues would require more specialists - my boy just needs stepstools and some info to the other kids.

Anyway, I will update as things develop, I'm hoping for the best for him and for all of us.

My best to you all,

Scott
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Old 27.04.2014, 18:16
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Re: Moving to Zurich with disabled child

Best of luck with the transition. Our son has triple auto-immune conditions - type 1 diabetes, coeliac and vitiligo. So far, kids occasionally will comment on his skin pigmentation (usually asking 'what happened' to his skin, sometimes 'does it hurt')... But mostly it's not been an issue. I am nervous about him hitting adolescence...he goes to the local secondary school next year...but he so far hasn't had a big problem....

I feel that there are a lot more people with disabilities 'out and about' in Zurich and I've seen several teens and young adults with dwarfism over the past 6 years, I think generally because people are out on public transport, so more visible than in a car-dependent culture.

I am sure you are already well-aware that your child's self perception is as much a factor as the outside world's attitudes. So often the 'well adjusted' teens and adults with disabilities that I have met over my time (I trained as a community worker in is area at university) will say that it is because their parents did not accept limits, and kept on with dreaming bigger and better things for their child, and fighting those hurdles, one at a time, with a big cheer squad behind them...

Don't assume the supports/services are not there...usually the problem is finding them! But the social system is very intact here in Switzerland, and very much locally based, so hopefully you will have a mostly smooth run...and integration is definitely the agenda...
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Old 27.04.2014, 18:26
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Re: Moving to Zurich with disabled child

There is a young lad in our school with dwarfism. The parents originally had him in a private school, thinking it would a better environment for him, mainly because he was missing a lot of school due to surgeries when he was younger. But he was mobbed a lot and very unhappy. He has been in our local school for a few years now, and is graduating from grade 9 this year. The kids in the local school have been very accepting and things are much better for him. The school has made some adaptations for him, for instance step stools in the school kitchen and workshop areas, etc.
Hope your son enjoys Kindergarten!
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Old 27.04.2014, 21:07
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Re: Moving to Zurich with disabled child

Thanks again to all for your helpful comments. I'll add a little more information, then post a real update after a few weeks of school.

1. Everything here is super local. The school decides what accommodations to provide, or not provide. In theory things can be appealed up the chain if the parent does not think they are sufficient, but I'm hoping that never happens to anyone.

2. I'm very optimistic about the experience. The world is a lot smaller here than Southern California, and he could become a well-known and loved member of a community. Maybe I'm dreaming, but he's super cute and makes friends easy. And I agree, people interact more here than in LA commutes, I've already seen two LP's (Little People), and we've only been here 3 weeks.

3. I did provide some resources to the teacher and school, things that can be shared with the students and with their parents - pictures, and a book for kids that talks about dwarfism.

So if anyone is reading this thread someday - be proactive but be positive! The kids are asleep and nervous about their first day, but I'm an eternal optimist!
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Old 27.04.2014, 21:21
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Re: Moving to Zurich with disabled child

Welcome all.
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Old 06.05.2014, 14:02
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Re: Moving to Zurich with disabled child

Update number 1:

Before my son arrived for the first day of school, the teacher did read a book on dwarfism that I provided to the class. She also showed the class some pictures of him and a write up, also items I provided, I would have done the same thing in the US. I think that all in all it went well.

A couple of observations:

The teachers seem great but are not super responsive on email. I understand that's normal and that I need to meet with them individually.

There have been minor initial incidents that will need some addressing. Examples: my son got locked in the bathroom because he couldn't reach the door handle - i.e., he needs step stools everywhere. I'm not sure if they will provide them, or if I need to. Another - today he reported that several times at school, kids from other classes were laughing at him. He did not say if he was clowning around or not and he wasn't upset, so I don't know if they were making fun of him for being different or not. But it's a red flag that I'll have to watch.
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