Knowing and understanding your procedural safeguards (parental rights) is very important when seeking the appropriate special education services for your child. Since the majority of students with disabilities receive special education services in the general education setting, being aware of laws and regulations with inclusion will point you in the right direction.
Federal law does not mandate inclusion. However, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) has passed regulations related to the education of children with disabilities in an inclusive placement. According to IDEA, children with disabilities must be educated in the “least restrictive environment appropriate” to meet their “unique needs.”
Additionally, IDEA requires that a least restrictive environment placement begins in the regular education classroom. Since the regular education classroom is not appropriate for all children with disabilities, IDEA requires school districts to have a “continuum of services” available so children with disabilities can be placed appropriately. IDEA also requires that the least restrictive environment be determined by the Individualized Education Program (IEP) team, not the school district. But, even though these guidelines are under IDEA, sometimes parents will have to push for inclusion.
Inclusion, when appropriate, is not a right that a school district can dismiss. IDEA mandates that students with disabilities be educated in the least restrictive environment to the “maximum extent appropriate.” Under the federal law, students with disabilities can only be removed from the regular education classroom when the nature or severity of the ability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.
As most students with disabilities will not be able to function in a regular education classroom without any services, supplementary aids and services are used to give students with disabilities aid, services and supports to assist them in the general education classroom. Once the IEP team determines what supplementary aids and services are needed (based on your child’s present levels of performance and IEP goals and objectives), the most appropriate placement is determined.
When the placement discussion begins, always keep in mind the “continuum of special education services.” Since inclusion is not all or nothing, there are a variety of placement options that may benefit your child. Placement options generally include:
- Regular education classroom with no support
- Regular education classroom with direct or indirect special education support (i.e. consultation teacher services)
- Regular education classroom with co-teaching model
- Regular education classroom and resource room services (your child will be pulled out of the classroom and instructed by a special education teacher in a separate room)
- Self-contained classroom
Most of the options for placement are proponents for inclusion. Having a thorough discussion of the continuum of services will help the IEP team find the most appropriate placement for your child.
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Placement discussions always begin with educating your child in the regular education classroom. If the IEP team determines that the regular education classroom is not appropriate for your child, the IEP team needs to provide an explanation of why this placement is not appropriate. Once this explanation is given, then you can move on to the next option in the continuum of services until you reach a placement option that is most appropriate for your child.
When you are in an IEP meeting, be sure that the IEP team does not skip over placement options or rush through it. Each placement option should be thoroughly discussed and a reason should be given as to why a placement option is not appropriate for your child. With this understanding, the right decision will be made and your child will receive the services that are best for them.
This article was featured in Issue 74 – Every Voice Matters