Pre-schools see sharp rise in children with developmental delays

Flanders has seen an increase of more than 20 per cent in the number of pre-school children with developmental delays, Het Laatste Nieuws reports on Wednesday. 

More children are being enrolled in type 2 special education, which is intended for children with an intellectual disability. In the current school year, 1,336 pre-school children are enrolled, up from 1,253 last year and 1,095 the previous year, an increase of 22 per cent in two years. 

In primary education, the number has grown by almost 10 per cent in the same period, from 4,090 to 4,471 children. However, the increase does not necessarily mean there are more children with intellectual disabilities.

“Particularly in kindergartens, they are seeing many more children who are developmentally delayed. I constantly hear our people saying that something is going on,” says Stefan Grielens, director of the Vrije CLB network of pupil support centres. 

"Babies couldn’t go to childcare or nursery for a while, and some may have fallen behind in their development as a result"

“Normally, the group of children with intellectual disabilities is stable,” he said. “Besides, we aren’t seeing other disabilities increasing, which makes it quite unlikely, for example, that this could be due to women becoming mothers later in life.”

Grielens does not rule out the increase being a consequence of lockdowns and school closures during the pandemic. “Babies couldn’t go to childcare or nursery for a while, and some may have fallen behind in their development as a result,” he says. 

“That’s only a hypothesis. But if they were effectively delayed because of the isolation they experienced, they will also be able to catch up with that delay.”

Education minister Ben Weyts, of Flemish nationalist party N-VA, has commissioned a study into the causes of the increase. Sara Nijs, professor at KU Leuven, will start the research on 1 April, with colleagues from UAntwerp and UC Leuven-Limburg. 

“We hope to gain sufficient insights into the factors that may explain this increase, to eventually provide an answer to the challenges posed by the rise,” she said.


#FlandersNewsService | File photo © BELGA PHOTO JAMES ARTHUR GEKIERE

Related news

Website preview
Flemish Parliament approves special education reform
The Flemish Parliament gave the go-ahead for the Decree on Learning Support on Wednesday. The plan is to integrate every pupil into the Flemish...
Website preview
Despite shortage, number of teachers in Flanders reaches all-time high
Last year, 175,453 full-time staff members were registered in Flemish education, the highest ever figure. While Flanders has been facing an...

Get updates in your mailbox

By clicking "Subscribe" I confirm I have read and agree to the Privacy Policy.


Belga News Agency delivers dependable, rapid and high-quality information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, from Belgium and abroad to all Belgian media. The information covers all sectors, from politics, economics and finance to social affairs, sports and culture, not to mention entertainment and lifestyle.

Every day, our journalists and press photographers produce hundreds of photos and news stories, dozens of online information items, plus audio and video bulletins, all in both national languages. Since the end of March 2022 English has been added as a language.

For public institutions, businesses and various organisations that need reliable information, Belga News Agency also offers a comprehensive range of corporate services to meet all their communication needs.


Arduinkaai 29 1000 Brussels