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Least Restrictive Environment: Benefits & Examples

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Abigail Cook
The concept of a least restrictive environment is the combination of physical and institutional structures that are most conducive to education. Learn how this is enforced by legislation, and see the beneficial results through examples. Updated: 12/23/2021

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 are only advisable when the regular classroom setting is not sufficient for that child to succeed.

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

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  • 0:04 Least Restrictive Environment
  • 0:47 Real-Life Example
  • 3:12 Examples & Results
  • 4:28 Lesson Summary
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Real-Life Example

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

  • Victor will have an adult aide with him at all times throughout the day. It's not safe for Victor to be on his own in any part of the school because of the hurt he may inflict on himself or other children.

  • Since Victor's strongest subject is math, Victor will spend 30 minutes in his regular fifth grade classroom during math time accompanied by an aide. He'll have the opportunity to listen to the teacher's lecture and work on the same assignments as his regular peers, which will include half the number of problems. This is appropriate because Victor acts out when he is overloaded with work. The hope is that the IEP team will be able to ease Victor back into his regular classroom and complete the workload for a typical fifth grader.

  • Victor will spend the rest of the school day in the special education classroom with his special education teacher, where he'll receive instruction in reading and writing, basic fifth grade science, and social skills. This setting is most appropriate for Victor because he's behind his non-disabled peers in those areas and, therefore, would not benefit from receiving the same instruction in the regular classroom.

  • Additionally, Victor will be spend time with his regular fifth grade class during morning and afternoon recess, class parties, lunch, and silent reading time. This gives Victor supervised opportunities to learn how to socialize with other children and make friends.

The IEP team understands that Victor will benefit from increased exposure to other fifth graders and the fifth grade curriculum. For the majority of his academic instruction, he'll be in a special education setting where he'll have fewer peers to distract him, more one-on-one instruction, and unique lesson plans that are specific to him and his needs. As the year progresses and Victor improves, the IEP team will adjust his schedule to increase not only the time he spends but also the services he receives with other fifth grade students.

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