Many parents are unaware of this right or principle of special education. I often say that most parents come to me with nothing more than a gut feeling that something isn’t right. LRE is definitely one of those things. Least Restrictive Environment is essential to our kids’ well being. We have seen the abuse and destruction it does to the disability community when our kids are automatically warehoused based upon their disability. So what does it mean for you and your child?
What is LRE?
300.114 LRE requirements
Well, that sounds pretty self-explanatory to me. Must be educated in the least restrictive environment to the maximum extent possible, and you cannot use budget issues as an excuse not to do it!
Of course in day to day practice, this doesn’t always happen. We have intellectually normal kids tossed into “life skills” all the time. Probably one of the most common scenarios I see is the school pushing for a self-contained classroom or ‘special school’ in lieu of a 1:1 aide.
That can go the other way too. A 1:1 aide can be a very restrictive environment, particularly for a child struggling with social skills and making friends. It’s not very “cool” to have a grown adult hanging around you all day. In working with your child, weigh all the options. Sometimes a special school with smaller class size and smaller environment, where they can navigate on their own without a 1:1 is less restrictive than having a 1:1 in the regular school setting.
LRE Least Restrictive Environment Continuum
There are varying degrees of restrictiveness. Least restrictive is the general education setting in your neighborhood school. Then there is pull out, self-contained classrooms, special schools, a 1:1 aide, homebound and hospital settings. Some federal districts have also ruled that LRE applies to ALL programming, including ESY. However, districts cannot require non-disabled children to attend ESY so that a disabled child has non-disabled peers there. This may help a parent in the event that they are looking for a different summer ESY program than what the district is offering.
When considering placement and services, parents need to assess it from all sides. Listen to your gut. Do what you feel is best. There is a lot of noise out there lately, particularly a camp of people who feel that inclusion should be the only option for everyone.
Remember, special education is a program, not a place. Special education can take place anywhere, and it’s the law that the child receives the appropriate education in the least restrictive setting. If you have any questions, contact an advocate or a special education attorney.
Near the end of your IEP, you will find a chart that lists your child’s percentages. This will let you know how much time they are in the Gen Ed environment.
Read More on LRE
- What IEP Parents need to know about Placement
- How to get a 1:1 aide on your IEP
- Inclusion Books for Kids
- Q & A on LRE (from Wrightslaw)