Special Educational Needs and Support Provisions in Swedish Preschools. A Multiple-Case Study.

Lundqvist, J.
Westling, M.A.
Siljehag, E.
International Journal of Early Childhood Special Education 7(2), 270-290.


The purpose of this study is to examine how comprehensive and specialised Swedish preschools, adopting some form of inclusive education, accommodate the children’s individual abilities and needs in different ways. In this context, the authors wish to describe the inclusive support provisions applied by the preschools to support the children’s potential for social participation and learning. On the basis of these support provisions, the article concludes with an analysis of differences between the selected preschools with respect to this support.


In the presentation of the results of the study, the children are divided into three groups: (1) children with some needs of support, (2) children with high needs of support, and (3) children with very high needs of support. Based on this division, the study concludes that inclusion in comprehensive preschools of children with very high needs of support seems realistic. As part of this inclusion effort, supportive roles and functions of peers seem to offer strong potential for facilitating some of the practical aspects of successful inclusion. For instance, the results of the study show that stronger focus on support from peers can have a positive influence on the children’s sense of belonging and on their general well-being.

The results furthermore indicate considerable variation in the abilities and needs of children with special educational needs. This leads to a more subtle understanding of the inclusive functions of preschools, as there can be varying degrees of demands on the supportive functions of the preschools. The findings of the study also suggest that, when engaged in everyday activities, children with special educational needs may require support from the physical settings as well as from their peers, regardless of whether the activities take place at comprehensive preschools or at specialised preschools. In the authors’ opinion, the findings of the study should therefore be taken into account when designing and implementing future inclusive preschool education.



The study is a case study with 56 children from eight preschools in four Swedish municipalities. The selection of preschools was based on a number of parameters defined in order to ensure the greatest possible variation. For example, it was a requirement that the preschools included children with and without special educational needs, and that the children represented a variety of socio-economic backgrounds. The data was collected by means of observations, interviews and questionnaires, which means that the study is both qualitative and quantitative. The study included a total of 29 preschool practitioners (e.g. teachers, child minders, teaching assistants and a speech and language therapist), whose views were elicited through eight group interviews.


Lundqvist, J., Westling, M.A. & Siljehag, E. (2015). Special Educational Needs and Support Provisions in Swedish Preschools. A Multiple-Case Study. International Journal of Early Childhood Special Education 7(2), 270-290.

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