George Lucas Educational Foundation

When LRE really ISN'T the least restrictive environment...

When LRE really ISN'T the least restrictive environment...

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What are your feelings about a private autism school where a child is getting 1:1 ABA and making progress, even though it isn't the closest school and there aren't "typical" peers? There are however, peers who are much more "typical" than my son. My 17 year old son has low-functioning autism, epilepsy, and is non-verbal. He has been at a private autism school for the last 6 years and the public high school wants him to return to the district. When I viewed their proposed program (in the special ed room 100% of the time), it was like walking into a sheltered workshop. The kids in there (who coincidentally are much higher functioning than my son) were sorting colored beads and unscrewing "widgets" from a board. They do the school's laundry from the cafeteria once a week and wipe off all of the cafeteria tables every day after lunch. I wanted to cry! Inclusion and LRE was created to keep kids from being put into institutions, but now this huge push for inclusion, when that's not what is best for a child, has gone too far! Your thoughts please.

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2educate's picture

What is LRE for one student could be more restrictive for another... what we may view as LRE (typical school environment) is not always LRE for another - I work at a segregated site for students with SH, behavior disabilities (some with Autism). On our site they actually have more freedom and interact between classes and with other students and staff. We have vocational and life skills training (meaningful curriculum) and social events (dances, daily lunch in the school cafeteria, movie Fridays, and even Special Olympics and a Winter Performance). Many times this is the first time the student and families have experienced being part of a school event. We also have a "Graduation" ceremony for our "seniors" and students aging out - the parent feel we have given them a "lost dream" back...

LPS's picture
Cross Categorical/self-contained - Teacher

I totally understand your frustration. With all the changes in class size I will be hard pressed to do full inclusion. 30 second graders in a room for most of 6.5 hours a day is probably not the LRE for many of my students. They will not benefit from the large setting and lack of support due to the many cutbacks including para pros and TA's for primary grades. Schools are no longer providing intervention specialists (teachers now do it during their lunch) I don't know what next year will look like when we no longer have a testing coordinator/adminstrator. Teachers will be doing it, meaning less teaching. We already don't get planning periods, or time to do paperwork. Systems are forcing more restrictive environments with less resources at our disposal.

Deven Black's picture
Deven Black
Middle school teacher-librarian in the Bronx, NY

The thinking behind LREs and the rest of the IDEA, etc. is to do what is best for the child. Children come in a wide variety of flavors and no one idea is going to fit them all. Yes, the LRE can sometimes be worse for the child than a non-LRE setting. It all depends on the particular child's abilities and needs and the particular settings involved.

BTW, what you describe as happening in your local school is educational malpractice. Clearly teachers did not design that program, but they'll be the ones held responsible for the lack of progress those kids will make.

Lori M's picture
Lori M
Special Educator/Educational Technologist in Nevada


Since you indicate that your son's public school wants him to return after six years of attending the private school, I assume the public school has been purchasing the services of the private school. Public school districts occasionally do this because they do not have sufficient resources to effectively educate a student. I find it intriguing that now, all of a sudden, they feel that they have the ability to effectively educate your son.

Please work diligently with your private school to ensure that your son's present levels are clearly outlined in the IEP. For example, when you say that the students at the private school do ABA 1:1 and are making progress, this indicates that your son requires a high level of speech and language training that is not readily available in a public school setting. Also, ensure that your son's IEP goals and benchmarks are in place. I sincerely doubt that the goals the private school has in mind are comparable to what he will do in the public school program. What about accommodations and modifications? Is what the private school does for your son now something that the public school is prepared to do?

In sum, as a team, you and your son's private school can be effective advocates for ensuring that he receives a proper education. Good luck to you, and please stay in touch with us on your progress.

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