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                            Quick Helps: least restrictive environment     



A student who has been found eligible for special education is to be provided with an appropriate education in the least restrictive environment possible. 


To the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities, including children in public or private institutions or other care facilities, are educated with children who are not disabled.  Special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability of a child is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.


Additionally, a State shall not use a funding mechanism by which the State distributes funds on the basis of the type of setting in which a child is served that will result in the failure to provide a child with a disability a free appropriate public education (FAPE) according to the unique needs of the child as described in the child’s IEP.


Special education is about individualized education, specialized instruction, and related services.  Special education is not a place, but a set of services provided in a particular placement. It is important for the IEP team to assess and analyze how the child can be educated with non disabled peers to the maximum extent appropriate by providing the student with appropriate supplementary aids and services.


The role of the general education teacher at the IEP team meeting is to help the team determine the appropriate supplementary aids and services that will assist the child in being educated in the general education curriculum. The team should carefully evaluate the child’s educational and functional needs with appropriate supports and services in the general education classroom as compared to education in a special or separate placement such as RSP, SDC, ED, or other special or separate classroom placement.


If the team decides, based on informed consent and meaningful participation, to place the child in a special or separate classroom placement then discussion should ensue on how the child will be supported and transitioned, over time, to a lesser restrictive environment. 


Rather than just stating that the child is not making progress in the general education classroom the team should explore and identify exactly why the child as not making progress.

When the team identifies why, the team should then look to choosing appropriate supports, services, supplementary aids, related services, accommodations, modifications, and adaptations that can assist the child in making progress in the general education classroom. The team should make every effort to support the child in the general education classroom. If appropriate, the general education teacher can be provided with program supports and training so the teacher can appropriately educate the child in the general education classroom with non disabled peers.


The overall goal of special education and IDEA is to assist the student in reaching the postsecondary goals of independent living; access to community, recreation, and leisure; further education; and employment.  Without well supported and appropriate access to general education curriculum with nondisabled peers these students will be compromised in reaching their postsecondary goals.


Questions a team should consider to appropriately support the student in making educational progress/receiving educational benefit in the general education classroom and/or curriculum:


What are the tasks the student needs to do (work in groups, note taking, etc)?


Which ones are problematic and why?


What are the subject areas the student needs to master?


Which areas are problematic and why?


In each problem area what exactly does the student have trouble doing?


What supplementary aids and services, related services, individualization*, accommodations, modifications, adaptations, assistive technology, compensations does the student need to support him/her in receiving educational benefit and being educated with nondisabled children?


Does the child have awareness and some positive reaction to being with nondisabled peers?


It is important for the team to remember that special education children can learn.  It just may be in a different way.  A child should not be removed from the regular classroom solely because of the need for supplementary aids and services.


When an IEP committee determines that a particular child needs a specific service in order to receive FAPE, the school district must provide an appropriate amount of that service, regardless of any contrary provisions it has agreed to in a collective bargaining agreement.


For more information on least restrictive environment and placement:


Universal Design for Learning




 *individualization refers to changes in the curriculum, adaptations to the delivery of instruction, different instructional methods


educational benefit- considered to encompass academics, socialization, increased self-esteem and communication skills, increased functional skills, role modeling



(c)  2006  Claudia Lowe, B.S., J.D.      Educational Strategist & Consultant

(c)  2006    Claudia Lowe, B.S., J.D.      Educational Strategist & Consultant

Information provided on this site and all other communications produced by Claudia Lowe, J.D., SENC is for educational purposes only and not to be considered legal or medical advice or recommendations.