The IEP has been written and there should now be some discussion of placement. What options are there and what is best for your child? These are the questions for the team. Like the IEP, the placement decision is very important to your child’s success. IDEA, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, is very specific about what should be provided for students with disabilities. IDEA states that your child should be educated in the least restrictive environment (LRE) where he can make effective progress. Below we will look at some of the options available for placing students with disabilities.
LRE – Less Restrictive Environment
What does it mean? Well, historically children with disabilities were separated from attending school with their typical peers. They were either kept at home or sent to “special schools” or put in basement classrooms and not allowed to socialize or participate with everyone else. They were also not taught what everyone else was taught, like math and science. Education reform changed that and later IDEA was re-authorized in 2004. IDEA states that students should be educated in the least restrictive environment with the necessary services and support for them to make effective progress. Whenever possible, children should be with their typical peers and attend neighborhood schools. They must be delivered with the same curriculum and are required to maintain the same standards for academic requirements. The terms mainstream, integration and inclusion are the new slogans to define when children are provided with LRE.
There are many placement options, so what does that mean for your child? When you start talking about placement, your first potential option should always be the class your child would be in if they didn’t have a disability. The team should consider what accommodations, services, and supports the child would need to be successful in that environment and then provide for them in the IEP. If it is determined that your child will not make progress in the regular classroom, other options may be considered. The goal should always be full inclusion. Inclusion is not place specific, but the pursuit of including students in classrooms and environments with typical peers to the greatest extent possible during their school day.
Some students will be provided with what is referred to as partial inclusion. Perhaps they attend some regular education classes but go to a separate classroom for math or reading. Perhaps they attend a resource room or academic support class once a day to assist with all academic subjects. Whatever it looks like, it should cater for students’ needs and assist with their actual progress.
Some students will need to be in classrooms with small numbers of specialized students and teachers. This is basically a separate setting. The goal should be to transition or integrate from that class and into the normal environment as much as possible. The benefits of socialization and peer interaction experiences in a regular setting must be balanced against the benefits of academic success and progress in a smaller setting. Many IEPs have a mix of both to meet the unique needs of students with learning disabilities, but need social experiences to develop socially.
Out of District
Some students attend school in private schools or collaborative schools that specialize in working with students with disabilities or special needs groups. This should always be considered as a last resort and only when all other options have been tried and unsuccessful. It’s important to balance the needs of a student getting what she needs and the opportunities she misses by not being educated at the school in her neighborhood.