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  • Writer's pictureChristine McCarty

Determining the right school for your special needs child…

Deciding on a school for your special needs child can be overwhelming and confusing. However, before you decide which school is right for your child, you should be aware of the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) principle under the Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).


Least Restrictive Environment

“Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) is the requirement in federal law that students with disabilities receive their education, to the maximum extent appropriate, with nondisabled peers and that special education students are not removed from regular classes unless, even with supplemental aids and services, education in regular classes cannot be achieved satisfactorily.”


The Importance of LRE?

When students are exposed to many different learning styles with varying abilities, it can improve their own learning and make them see the world through a different lens other than their own. LRE fosters an inclusion environment for all individuals. Furthermore, it is imperative for special needs children as they learn social skills by forming natural relationships with typical peers.


Schooling Options

For a special needs child, there are several different options when it comes to school and how therapies/services are provided. Below I breakdown the different options within the special needs community.


Push-in Services: Students with disabilities who require minimal intervention often receive “push-in” services as a first step in the special education process. Push-in services (e.g. speech, occupational, and other therapies) tend to occur while your child is in a typical classroom at a traditional school.


Pull-out Services: Students who need a bit more focused help from a therapist may be “pulled out” of the classroom for work in a one-on-one or small group setting. Pull-out services also tend to occur while your child is in a typical classroom at a traditional school.


Inclusive Classrooms: A mix of children of varying abilities along with teachers (some may have special education degrees) and therapists within the classroom, allow those who have special needs to get the additional help they require while being around typical children. Inclusive classroom environments tend to be at traditional schools.


Exclusive Classrooms: A smaller classroom of students who all have special educational needs. Teachers have degrees in special education and therapists/equipment is readily available based on each child’s needs. Exclusive classroom environments can be found at both traditional and specialty schools.


Specialty Schools: Special needs children vary in needs and as a result, specialty schools often have specific needs they specialize in while having a low student-to-staff ratio. Classrooms in specialty schools can be both traditional and non-traditional and have special education teachers along with therapists on staff. Students can receive occupational, speech, cognitive services as well as other therapies to improve their quality of life.


Residential Programs: These special educational programs are best for students who require around the clock care that is beyond the capability that their community can offer. These students often have medical needs beyond what can be managed at home or in a specialty school that come before their educational needs.


In my experience, take the time to learn about all your options and place your child where you feel they will do their best in the most unrestrictive environment possible!


Much love,

Raising Addy

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