The school year is starting and so are IEP meetings. An IEP refers to an Individualized Educational Plan that the parents and school agree upon. This plan is a legal agreement which states the school environment and accommodations a child needs in order to benefit from their education. Unfortunately not all schools tell parents about all of their rights they have at their child’s IEP meetings (Individualized Educational Plan). Also they do not fully explain all the terms. This creates a great deal of confusion and anxiety for parents. Typically any time I write an article regarding IEPs, I receive emails from parents across the country asking if they are being treated fairly in their IEP meetings.

A common term that is used at IEP meetings is Least Restrictive Environment. At times this term is used to deny a child services. Parents may be asking about Resource Assistance or a Special Day Class and the school may say the Resource Room is not an option because it is not the least restrictive environment. They may insist that the child be placed in a general educational classroom. In other words, the typical classroom people think about when they think of a classroom. However, placing a child in a general education classroom or school is not always the least restrictive environment. Also schools and at times parents may worry about how much inclusion their child will be receiving with the proposed IEP.

Inclusion refers to providing children, who need special educational services, access to the general educational atmosphere and students. However, this is not always the least restrictive environment for your child. The least restrictive environment is the environment in which your child will benefit the most from their education. This may not always be a general education classroom. Remember, least restrictive refers to the environment where your child has the least amount of difficulties learning so they can benefit fully from their education. Therefore, a Special Educational Classroom may be the least restrictive environment for your child depending on their educational needs. If they will benefit more from their education in a Special Day Classroom then that is the least restrictive environment for your child.

This can be a confusing term to understand especially since most people have been lead to believe that inclusion is the same thing as the least restrictive environment. I have included a link to a video which further explains this term. I strongly recommend you watch it so you have a clear understanding of what least restrictive environment refers to and what inclusion refers to https://youtu.be/I7HFRF8y288.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers in Special Education. He often assists parents with IEPs and school accommodations. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his websites http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or http://www.LucasCenter.org.

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