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Less Restrictive Environment, Mainstreaming and Inclusion; What Are The Major Differences and Benefits

LRE, mainstreaming and inclusion are essential terms to know when working with a student in special education programs. These elements of students’ IEPs will determine how they spend their time at school, how they receive services and how they function within the school’s community, among many other things.

What is LRE?

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LRE stands for Least Restrictive Environment, and it refers to the situation that will allow a special education student to receive the education most suited to his or her needs, while spending the most amount of time possible learning alongside their peers without disabilities. LRE dictates that separate classes should only be held for special education students if nature or severity of their disabilities preclude satisfactory education from occurring in a regular classroom.

LRE recognizes that for a child with disabilities to be educated appropriately in a regular educational environment, additional services and aids may be necessary, and indeed, can play a pivotal role in the child’s development. The addition of these resources is nearly always preferable to educating the child in a separate setting.

LRE guidelines also state that education for the child with special needs is to be “achieved satisfactorily.” This language is not vague with the intention of permitting these students to receive subpar education; on the contrary, it allows each child’s IEP team to determine what constitutes satisfactory results for the student.

These standards benefit special education students by allowing them to learn with their peers in a cohesive environment, rather than learning in a separate space that distances them from their fellow students.

What is mainstreaming?

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Mainstreaming is the term used to describe integrating students with disabilities into regular learning environments. Mainstreamed students have high potential for success, but it is vital that they receive support personalized for their needs by their IEP team. It is bringing special education services to the child rather than removing the child from the regular classroom.

Benefits of mainstreaming often include higher academic success, increased self-esteem and more astute social skills.

What is inclusion?

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Inclusion is the process of mainstreaming a student to comply with LRE. For students with disabilities, advantages to this process are the opportunity to form friendships with their peers from whom they would have been separated if educated in a separate classroom. It allows students with disabilities to interact with non-disabled students to the benefit of all; they will all learn how to work together, gaining invaluable skills for the future. Students taught in a classroom with inclusion will learn to be more accepting and respectful of people from different backgrounds.

Additionally, families of students with disabilities will be able to integrate more easily into the community of the school, creating those relationships between parents that lead to friendships between children and more opportunities for socializing.

Who decides where the child is placed?

The decision for where the child will be educated is up to his or her IEP team, of which the child should also be a part, when they have reached a suitable level of maturity.  The IEP team will consider the student’s academic and social history, goals and specific needs.

Placement can be changed whenever it is decided that the current situation is not beneficial to the student, or can be improved in any way.

Why are these terms important?

With LRE guidelines, mainstreaming and inclusion, special education students are poised to receive the most effective and appropriate education possible. Everyone involved in a student’s IEP team should be knowledgeable of the processes and advantages involved in LRE.

If you would like to get more information on these topics and more come to the Special Education Laws Made Simple Seminar Monday, May 19th in Orange, CA!

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