LRE(A): What is the Least Restrictive Environment Appropriate for My Child?
In short, the least restrictive environment appropriate for your child is the environment which will meet your child's needs. The more realistic answer is often more complex.
When choosing a setting, also referred to as environment or classroom, for your child, many things must be considered.
Ideally, the IEP team begins by considering the ultimate least restrictive environment, the general education setting. If your child is unable or unlikely to achieve academic success in the general education setting, we may look at providing support in the classroom. Would the presence and support of a para-educator help your child experience success? If para-educator support would not be enough to meet the needs of your child, what about a special education teacher? If the answer is yes, that one of these supports would help your child experience success, this might be the right setting. If not, we look at the next more restrictive environment, and the next and the next, until we find the right fit.
We also have to consider your child's behavioral success. If your child has behavioral needs that cannot be met in the general education classroom without completely disrupting the learning environment, that might not be the best place for them, or the LRE appropriate. Just like with academic support needs, we work from the least restrictive to more restrictive environments until we find the right match.
Schools will often push back on moving students to more restrictive environments without conducting an evaluation, or reevaluation. If that is the case, follow up with an email stating that you are formally requesting a re-evaluation for your child based on current supports not meeting your child’s needs. (Email this and every other important request! It is important to establish a timeline!)
Many times in my advocacy work, parents have been told, “We don't offer inclusion.” “We don't offer mainstream.” “We don't have a special education teacher in the regular classroom.” All baloney!
Schools receive IDEA funds to provide a continuum of services for students in the school setting, as described in the visual below. While it may be true that each individual school does not offer each setting, there is a school in your district with the setting that is right for your child! If you need help navigating this frustrating aspect of your child’s school experience, I am your friendly neighborhood special education advocate!