Education: Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)

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Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)

Least Restrictive Environment or LRE is a major component of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). The intention is to ensure students with disabilities are served in a setting in which the student can be educated successfully with non-disabled peers as much as possible. The law does not mandate regular class placement but that it be considered as the first option. For some students a general education classroom with minimal extra help is least restrictive and for a child with a severe disability, a self-contained classroom may be the least restrictive.

During each child’s annual IEP meeting the team should consider which accommodations and modifications, supplementary aids and services, and other supports for school personnel should be provided in order for the child to be involved in the general education program, to achieve their IEP goals and to successfully demonstrate their competencies in state and district assessments. For instance, an accommodation may be that student needs shorter assignments to show competency in the skill being taught.

During the IEP meeting the team will address the student’s participation in the general curriculum in the following areas of the IEP:

  • Present level statement includes how the student’s disability affects the student’s involvement and progress in the general curriculum.
  • The measurable annual goals must be related to the student’s needs that result from the disability to enable the student to be involved and make progress in the general curriculum.
  • In order for the student to participate as much as possible in the general curriculum, extracurricular, and nonacademic activities the IEP will address special education and related services, supplementary aids and services, program modifications and supports for school personnel.
  • The IEP must include an explanation as to why the student cannot be educated in the regular education environment.

No student may be excluded from participation in nonacademic and extracurricular services and activities. Nonacademic and extracurricular services and activities include recess period and athletics; food services and meals; social and recreational activities; special interest groups or clubs sponsored by the school or district; referrals to outside agencies or organizations, and employment and employment assistance. Students with disabilities must have the opportunity to participate in these activities to the maximum extent appropriate. The school must include the student in school programs, activities and services with nondisabled students based on the needs of the individual student.

In Florida, the continuum of services for LRE is organized so that children can receive instruction in one or more of the following ways:

  • Supplementary consultation or related services: assistance provided to students in general education, career and technical education or special education classes. An example would be the ESE teacher meeting with the general education to make adaptions to the assignments. Other examples include the ESE teacher provides and monitors a behavior plan used in the general education class or a student uses specialized equipment to respond. The district may provide supplementary instructional personnel to public or nonpublic preschool or child care programs for the instruction of prekindergarten students with disabilities.
  • Resource room: the student receives some special instruction in a separate class but the majority of their educational program is in the general education settings. An example would be a student who is taught reading in a resource class but has all other classes in the general education class.
  • Special class: the student receives the majority of their educational program in a special class located at a regular school. For example, students who are in a special class all day long for students with autism at their neighborhood school.
  • Special day school: is a school which is administratively separate from regular schools and is organized to serve one or more categories of students with disabilities. In Palm Beach County, students attending Indian Ridge or Royal Palm School are considered to be in a special day school.
  • Residential school: is a special school which provides special education and related services as well as room and board. Students in residential programs have very significant needs.
  • Special class in a hospital or facility: is a class operated by a non-educational agency, such as Sandy Pines.
  • Hospital/Homebound: is individual education by a school district certified teacher in either their home or hospital due to medical treatment.

How does the service/topic help the person with a disability or family support system?

Addressing LRE on the IEP allows the student with a disability the opportunity to be included in the general education environment with non-disabled peers as much as possible. Understanding what LRE means can help a parent/guardian get the best experience for their child at school.

How may a parent/caregiver gain access to this service?

At the annual IEP meeting LRE is discussed. If a parent feels their child needs a more or less restrictive program they may request an IEP meeting to discuss LRE or placement setting.

Suggested factors to consider when looking at the Least Restrictive Environment:

  • Is the student being educated in the school that would be attended if not disabled?
  • Are there any harmful effects on the student or on the quality of services the student needs when selecting the placement?
  • Is the student with a disability being removed from education in age-appropriate regular classrooms solely because of needed modifications in the general curriculum?
  • Is the placement option being considered based on the student’s needs or based on the student’s eligibility category, disabling condition, label, or for administrative convenience?
  • Does the student have the opportunity to participate as appropriate in nonacademic and extracurricular services and activities?

Recommended websites, YouTube videos, books on this topic?

San Juan Unified School District Special Education Overview Least Restricted Environment First Steps A Guide to Your Child’s Development Revised in 2017, this is an easy-to-read guide that explains intellectual and developmental disabilities at all stages of life for persons with these disabilities, their families, and other stakeholders. It gives critical information and resources to help these children reach their fullest potential. To Download a copy Click Here or To order online Click Here. Florida Department of Education Technical Assistance Paper ESE 10744 Least Restrictive Environment Considerations Related to Individual Educational Plans. Click Here Getting Ready for Your IEP Meeting Guide. Click Here Inclusion Florida DOE Brief. Click Here


Florida department of education. Technical assistance paper ESE 10744. June 2000.

Florida developmental disabilities council. First steps a guide to your child’s development pages 225 and 226. 2017.

San Juan unified school district. Special Education Overview Least Restricted Environment August 2018

Written by: Iris Neil

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