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What is meant by least restrictive environment?

As a previous post here discussed, federal law requires that a student with special needs learn in the least restrictive environment. This post talked about the different ways in which school districts in the Mobile area may choose to assist students with special needs.

A least restrictive environment, or "LRE," is actually not any single way of delivering educational services. Rather, it is a legal principle which stands for the proposition that, when reasonably possible, a student with special needs should get to learn alongside his or her peers. On a practical level, this means that a student should not be segregated from the rest of the class when it is feasible to offer them in-classroom assistance.

Along with the LRE principle, two other important terms parents in Alabama should remember are "inclusion" and "mainstreaming." The idea of mainstreaming is that, for as much time as possible, a child with special needs should join his or her peers as they go through their school day. Inclusion, on the other hand, involves recognizing the presence of special needs students in the classroom and making sure that they have a meaningful opportunity to participate.

This information is important for parents to have if they are concerned that they as a family must choose whether they want to have the help their special needs child requires, or they want their child to feel like an ordinary student in the classroom. Whenever possible, the school must provide both the assistance where needed and a sense of normalcy for the special needs student. It is important to have the right information about special education law.

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