Least Restrictive Environment: Benefits & Examples

Instructor: Abigail Cook
Teachers are required to find the least restrictive environment for students with disabilities. In most cases, there are a lot of pieces to this puzzle, and each student has a unique set of needs. Let's take a look at an example and some of the benefits of least restrictive environments.

What is a Least Restrictive Environment?

According to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004, children with disabilities should be educated alongside their non-disabled peers to the greatest extent possible. Special classrooms, separate schools, or special education services only occur when the regular classroom setting is not enough for that child to succeed.

This means that once a child qualifies for special education services, they are not automatically put into a special education classroom. It's up to the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) team to determine what the least restrictive environment is for that child. The least restrictive environment refers not only to the physical placement, but also includes the education services and instruction.

Example: Victor

Let's look at a real-life example of a least restrictive environment. Victor is a fifth grade student who has been diagnosed with emotional disturbance and qualifies for special education. At school, he is violent with other students, curses, runs through the halls, tries to hurt himself, and rarely complies with teacher requests. His behavior is affecting his education and he is falling further behind the rest of the fifth graders.

Considering Victor's diagnosis, the IEP team writes his IEP and includes a description of what the least restrictive environment will look like for him:

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