The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) stipulates that school children be educated in the Least Restrictive Environment. This means that, to the extent possible, they will be educated with their non-disabled peers, and school systems will provide additional supports and modifications to make this happen.
IDEA says two things about LRE that are important to understand when working with the IEP team:

  1. Your child should be with kids in general education to the “maximum extent that is appropriate.”
  2. Special classes, separate schools or removal from the general education class should only happen when your child’s learning or attention issue—his “disability” under IDEA—is so severe that supplementary aids and services can’t provide him with an appropriate education.

A key word here is “appropriate.” It refers to what’s suitable or right for your child. Sometimes, putting a child in a general education classroom isn’t suitable because a specific service or program can’t be provided there.

The intent of LRE is to make sure that kids who receive special education are included in the general education classroom as often as possible. But agreeing on how that happens isn’t always easy.

Here are some common LRE scenarios:

  • General education classroom with support. Your child spends the entire day in a general education class. He receives supports and services like a tutor or aide, assistive technology, related services, accommodations, modifications or any combination of these.
  • Partial mainstream/inclusion classroom. Your child spends part of the day in a general education class. He gets some individual or small-group instruction in a special education class, or is pulled out of class for some services.
  • Special education class. This is a program with specialized instruction for kids with similar learning needs.
  • Specialized program outside of your school district. This includes private schools, residential programs and hospital programs.




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