Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)

Fact Sheet

Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) also known as: “Full Inclusion” OR “Mainstreaming”

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires school districts to ensure: “…to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities,…are educated with children who are not disabled and that special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.” [20 U.S. Code 1412(5) (B)]

Children with disabilities should, in most cases:

Supplementary Aids and Services

A common fear among parents and educators is that children with disabilities will not learn in regular education programs. Supplementary aids and services make it possible for a child to participate in regular school activities. Examples include assistive technology, such as a computer or communication device, an itinerant (visiting) special education teacher, or an individual classroom aid. The need for these devices/services should be discussed in the Individualized Education Program (IEP).

The IEP team must consider and discuss the following in determining the LRE for each student:

Selecting the Appropriate Placement

When choosing the LRE option for the student, the IEP team should consider each of the program options available:

The IEP Team should also consider community agencies (e.g. Head Start for preschool children).

Advocacy Tip: The school must prove that a particular placement will not benefit the child and/or cannot be done. The IEP team must give serious consideration to what supplemental aids and services would allow the student to be in a regular class before deciding that the student needs to be in a separate class or school.


$$$ The school says it will cost too much money for my child to be in regular education! A school district may not decide to educate a child with a disability in a special education classroom because it would be more expensive to place the child in a regular class. Also, deciding where a child with a disability will receive an education cannot be made because of convenience for school staff. For instance, it might be simpler and cheaper if all children with orthopedic disabilities went to the same school because only one school would need to be totally accessible. However, that idea, although financially good for the schools, may not be appropriate for the student or acceptable to parents for other reasons.

On the following pages, there is a worksheet to help you determine the most appropriate placement for your child.


Use the following questions to consider the placement decision for your child’s education. If you
disagree with the school’s recommendation, these questions will help you be prepared.

Is this the same school where neighborhood children without a disability attend?  If not:

Is this the same class my child would be in if she or he did not have a disability? If not:

Does the “nature of severity of my child’s disability” make it better for him/her to receive some or part of the educational program in a more restrictive or “pull-out” setting such as a resource room?  If so:

Does the “Nature of Severity of the disability” make it better for my child to received his or her academic/educational program in a separate setting? If so:

Advocacy Tip: Be prepared! The IEP team should decide the educational placement of your child with input from you. The parent is as an equal member of the IEP team. Remember, school is more than just academics. The social development of your child is equally important!!!

This publication provides legal information, but is not intended to be legal advice. The information was based on the law at the time it was written. As the law may change, please contact P&A for updates.
This publication is funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Administration on  Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), and by the U.S. Department of Education (Rehabilitation Services Administration). It does not necessarily represent the official views of the funding authorities.
P&A does not discriminate on the basis of disability, race, gender, or national origin in the provision of its programs or services. Pete Cantrell is P&A’s designated coordinator for Sec. 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act. November 2005 ED-08

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