What Does Least Restrictive Environment Mean?
Federal law requires that every special education student must have an Individualized Education Program (IEP), which is a legal document that specifies the supports, instruction, and services the student needs to thrive. An IEP includes the student’s educational and personal goals as laid out by parents and educators.
Every IEP must contain a plan for providing educational services in the least restrictive environment (LRE). The law recognizes that there are times when a separate classroom is the best resource for attaining IEP goals. But special education students should receive instruction in a general education setting when it matches their IEP goals.
Least Restrictive Environment Isn’t a Place
There are 13 areas of disability recognized by the Individuals with Disabilities Educaton Act (IDEA). To ensure an LRE, special education students should be taught alongside their same age peers without disabilities whenever possible. That means providing IEP accommodations and modifications inside the general education classroom.
LRE isn’t a place, it’s a philosophy. And though federal statutes don’t use the term “inclusion”, making special education students feel included with their same age peers certainly fulfills the spirit of the law.
A modification means a change in what is being taught to or expected from the student, such as providing the student with a separate curriculum. An accommodation, on the other hand, is a change that helps the student overcome a disability, such as allowing a visually impaired student to record their lessons.
Accommodations and modifications that make it easier for special education students to receive instruction in a general education classroom include:
- Having a special education teacher or paraprofessional assisting instruction
- Outlines and study guides
- Making the child feel welcome
- Recording lessons
- Highlighted notes
- Designated note takers
- Large print or braille curricula
- Using student/peer tutors
- Preferred seating
- Sensory tools
- Assignment modifications
- Manipulative sets
- Alternate activities and evaluations
- Multisensory instruction to address all learning modalities
The IEP team may decide that your special education child’s needs can best be met by having them spend part of the day with a special education teacher and part of the day in a general education classroom. This determination may be based on subject matter. For example, a special education student may receive Math or Language Arts instruction in a smaller setting.
A major advantage of partial inclusion is that the child can receive small group and one-on-one instruction directly from teachers and paraprofessionals. It also allows the special education child to learn at a pace that matches their IEP. In a small group setting, the special education teacher is able to reinforce lessons provided in the general education classroom.
Service that may be best provided in a smaller group setting include:
- Speech pathology
- Psychological services
- Evaluation and testing
- Health and medical services
- Physical and occupational therapy
- Social work services
- Therapeutic recreation
Know Your Rights as a Special Education Parent
Sometimes school districts are not able to provide the services your special education child requires to meet their IEP goals. In these cases, the district may be required to provide specialized programs outside the school district. Under the principle of Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), the school district is obligated to pay for these services.
If you’re not satisfied with your child’s special education placement, contact Woodsmall Law Group right away. We serve children with special needs and their parents in Los Angeles County, focusing on the San Gabriel Valley. We have been helping families make the most out of their educational opportunities for over 18 years.
If you have any questions or concerns about your child’s placement or the services they are receiving, please call (626) 440-0028 to schedule a FREE initial consultation. We speak English, Mandarin, Cantonese, Polish, and Spanish.