Least Restrictive Environment is recognized under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act-2004. (IDEA) to promote the idea of including children with special needs in the mainstream narrative and make classrooms an inclusive environment for everyone.
Understanding of this implementation can be better with some examples, ideas, and strategies. The instances and tips in this article not only make you dive into how LRE looks but also give insights into how LRE can be assistive in diverse needs.
What Is the Least Restrictive Environment?
Least Restrictive Environment is a principle that stands for special needs children where a child with a disability is able to learn in the same room that of a regular classroom with their schoolfellows to the full extent possible along with a free appropriate public education(FAPE).
Jenifer A kurth studied the effect of placement decisions on children and the importance of LRE in this process. The report outlined Section 612(5)(a) defining the attributes of LRE. It is remarked that IDEA focuses on removing regular educational environment barriers for special students with supplementary aids and services where these services can be academic and non-academic as well.
How least restrictive environment is assistive?
The Least Restrictive Environment as a principle aims at making regular classrooms inclusive and include special needs in the mainstream.
- The Least Restrictive Environment is helpful for the teachers in the classroom as the teachers get acquainted with the supplementary aids used. Audio–visual aids, computer-aided instructions, interpreters, and “services coordinators” are some of the modifications that can assist students with special needs.
- The modification in the regular curriculum also sensitizes the other students in the classroom about the supplementary aids which will also benefit the students in educating themselves through aids.
- There is positive attitude development through the least restrictive environments in classrooms for both the students and the teachers
- Simplifying instructions in the classroom in terms of in-class study and when provided with homework.
Some examples of the least restrictive environment
The central motto of LRE is to make sure that disabled students can mingle effortlessly in the regular classroom. This way, the mainstream culture is drastically included while ensuring needs through FAPE. Here are a few examples of how LRE proves effective.
- Amanda has a child who is autistic and she worries about her child to get him enrolled in the public school even after knowing about IDEA and IEP. She has a lot of what-ifs in her mind and she can’t decide if it is the right decision for her child or not. IEP team members come into the picture with the initial picture of assessing the child and see their performance and understand if Amanda’s child would be comfortable in the least restrictive environment and the team members of IEP make sure that the school is able to provide an LRE space for her child.
- Harry has receptive language disorder but he understands when it’s time to play in the school. He has a hard time learning things but when it comes to playing in the park Harry is always ready. He is excited to go on this field trip with the other students in his classroom and a special education teacher accompanying the entire class allows Harry to socialize better and he is able to socialize with the other kids just like any other day.
- Nikki spends more than half of her day studying and is proficient in academics but when she doesn’t understand what is being taught, Nikki uses the resource room and takes help from her special education setting to work on her assignments and revisit the topic she didn’t understand in the general education setting.
- Mary has cerebral palsy due to which she has trouble holding onto the regular style pen or pencils that others use in the general classroom instead she uses a different type of pencil which helps her grip and muscle strength when she is writing and at the same time she is able to study with other students of her class. In the least restrictive environment, she is not removed from the class as under IDEA it is her right to sit in the least restrictive environment.
- Liam is Dyslexic and has not been able to perform well the second time in a row and this has left his family and him very sad and worried as they don’t want to send him to a different school as he has adjusted well in the school environment. With the IEP team in place, he doesn’t have to leave the school and continue studying in the Least Restrictive Environment. What really needs to be done by the team members of IEP is to come to a consensus on modification of how Liam is taught in the school with the input of the concerned parties like his class teacher, his special education teacher, and his parents.
- Jane has signs of Dyscalculia. While she performs well in other subjects, she has some classroom challenges in answering and catching up. The teacher noticed it and put an appeal to IEP to analyze, to which special math training is allotted to her. Now, After every math session in school, staff allotted an additional time of 10 minutes to explain the concept again and clear out doubts if any.
- John, who has cerebral palsy, wishes to study in a regular school where his friends go. Under the IEP Plan, John’s parents can apply to john’s friend’s school and get him enrolled after an organized meeting with the IEP team to study there with his schoolmates. Depending upon the needs of the child, posture correctors, and other services can be implemented.
- Tom feels comfortable with his general teacher and special education teacher but unfortunately, he is not happy learning in the class as with his learning disability he is not able to connect with his classmates. His class teacher and special education teacher came up with the idea of offering tools and aids to make him ready for attending regular classes.
- Sarah who has Dyslexia studies in her neighborhood school where she studies with her friends who don’t have Dyslexia and her class teacher and special education teacher have observed her and believe that she needs to work more on her reading skills and therefore Sarah is given some extra time to read with the special education teacher to improve her reading in the local school itself.
- Max has autism. He has decided he wants to study in the least restrictive environment and thus his parents enroll him in a nearby public school. Max never had problems with their studies and has always worked hard to get good grades. What Max is scared of is meeting new people in the school and who wouldn’t be like him. When he goes to his class on his first day he is surprised as everyone comes up to him and talks to him like any other friend. Max was scared that he would not be able to make friends in the new school but with the help of the general teacher and special education teacher he made lots of friends and they also came over to his house to spend time with him. Based on his needs, a list of IEP goals and the proper setting is ensured in the school environment.
Strategies to ensure the least restrictive environment
LRE implementation is based on the strengths and weaknesses of the students of the school. To ensure it is implemented in schools under IDEA, here are some common facts that one can keep in mind while looking for a school for your child with special needs
- To make sure general teachers and special needs teachers are both employed at the school and work in the setup.
- The ARD committee needs to figure out which supplementary aids and support are deemed fine to meet the student’s needs that come out of his/her disability. So that those postulates that are appropriately needed can be found out.
- It is important to monitor the student’s progress. It has to be observed that the special needs child is benefitted from sitting in an inclusive classroom and showing results and if not other modifications and changes in the curriculum should be looked at or what other resources are available for the special needs student.
- The teacher’s and staff’s attitude towards special needs children should be no different from other students and the teachers should have adequate training for the classroom keeping the disabled children in mind.
- To make sure a special needs children don’t have to transfer from one school to another very often and if needed the curriculum should be adjustable and modification-friendly when it concerns special needs students
We have seen that after the implementation of IDEA the least restrictive environment has not only been a plus point for special needs students but has also worked on spreading empathy and sensitizing other students too. The LRE principle helped general teachers recognize learning disabilities and learn about them in their teaching career and work towards providing a platform and giving a voice to the children who wanted to be worked with as just normal as anybody else in a classroom. Check the above insights and examples to better understand the LRE implementation.
- Kurth, J. A., Ruppar, A. L., Toews, S. G., McCabe, K. M., McQueston, J. A., & Johnston, R. (2019). Considerations in placement decisions for students with extensive support needs: An analysis of LRE statements. Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 44(1), 3-19.