What Is the Purpose of Least Restrictive Environment?
Least Restrictive Environment
As parents sit at the IEP table, the Team comes to the part of the meeting when they discuss the “appropriate classroom setting.” If you are like me, parents automatically think their child will be in the gen-ed (general education/ regular) classroom. Random thoughts that have gone thru my head — as a parent and as an advocate – Isn’t every child entitled to be placed in the gen-ed setting? Is the gen-ed classroom the “best” setting for each child? What is the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) for my child? This last question is the hardest for parents as they sit at the IEP table.
While at the IEP Meeting, it is hard to make a sound choice regarding which placement/setting will be the most beneficial to your child when you are reviewing all options for your child! We had to consider a non-inclusion class for our younger daughter with her legal blindness. With her blindness, there are different cues, teaching strategies, accommodations, etc… that needed to be addressed and that would have been more “typical” in a center classroom/ residential school with other students who were also blind. That decision did not come easily for my husband and I, but we had several other families that we were able to discuss placement with so that she benefitted best! At least we “could prepare.” Most parents don’t have that luxury.
Getting back to the IDEA law: IDEA does state that our children with disabilities in public or private schools/facilities should be educated with children who are nondisabled and that placement outside the gen ed class “occurs only if the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.”1 The ASD (autism) class is one example where your child might benefit from placement with other students who have autism; the classroom might be more equipped with tools/equipment/therapies/strategies than the gen ed class.
There is a continuum of placement – regular/gen-ed classes, gen-ed classes with supports (inclusion), special classes (ESE/resource room/self-contained), special schools (center or residential schools), home instruction, and hospital/homebound and institutions.2 The IEP Team, which includes parents, will consider the IEP, present levels, and evaluations and placement should be reviewed and determined annually. Placement should also be made at the school closest to the child’s home or where he/she would be placed if they did not have a disability.3
If your child is placed in a more restrictive classroom, they should be included to the extent possible with their nondisabled peers. This may mean that they are in the lunchroom or extracurricular classes/electives with their nondisabled peers, but are sitting with their classmates. The IEP will have a breakdown of the percentage of time your child will be with children with and without disabilities. The Team will also review and determine your child’s need for supplementary aids/services and these will also be written into the IEP. I usually suggest that parents request that their child be included in an elective (or two) with supports to see how their child will do in a gen-ed setting.
Placement is critical for your child so network with other parents or talk to an advocate so that you can make an informed decision that you can agree with. And you do need to “let it work” to see if your child thrives in that placement.
Doreen Franklin Doreen is a Special Ed Advocate and parent of 2 adopted daughters with diverse special needs. She assists parents with their understanding of legal policy, procedures, rights, & responsibilities under IDEA so parents can learn to collaboratively advocate for their child. She has been an Advocate & Coach since 2005. Doreen is also a private tutor and homeschooled her older daughter.
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This post originally appeared on our September/October 2018 Magazine