IEPs and LREs – the nitty gritty

4-kids-in-a-classroom_thm1Since this is IEP season (the time of the year when IEPs are reviewed and re-vamped for the next school year), I am going to keep focusing on this all important document and process. IEP stands for “Individualized Education Program.” It is both a process and a written educational plan for a child with a qualifying disability.  If your child is in special education due to a delay or disability, the IEP is your child’s lifeline.

What must you know about IEPs?

If you need a crash course on how to prepare for your IEP meeting and create a winning IEP, I suggest you go to Wrightslaw’s page. In a simple “pop up” format, you will find these topics:

• Determining present levels
• Writing measurable goals
• Providing individualized services, not one-size-fits-all services
• Including related services in the IEP
• Transportation options
• Including extracurricular activities
• Measuring your child’s progress
• Receiving services while being mainstreamed

You can also see my prior post on how to create effective IEP goals.

What is the LRE?

It is very important to understand “Least Restrictive Environment” commonly known as LRE. The law says children with disabilities must be educated in the least restricted environment with non-disabled peers “to the maximum extent possible.” (This concept is also commonly called “inclusion.”) The LRE is your child’s regular education classroom. Your child can not be removed from her classroom unless her disability does not allow her to be educated there, even with supports from supplementary aids and services (that are provided through an IEP).  The IEP team (of which parents are full members) decides whether or not the nature of the disability makes it possible for your child to be educated in the regular ed classroom with individualized supports.

There is a range of options for where a child may be educated, based on her individual needs. They are (in order from the least restrictive to the most restrictive environment):

• the child’s regular education classroom
• a special class within the regular “home” school
• an “out placement” such as a specialized school
• home schooling
• education within a hospital or institution

It is so important to remember that the goal is to give your child what she NEEDS to learn and succeed. There is no point in keeping her in a regular ed classroom if she truly needs outside services and a different placement to thrive.

When the LRE doesn’t work for your child

For a long time, my daughter (who has learning disabilities and auditory problems) was in the regular ed classroom where she received extra help and support. She was not making good progress. One day she announced to me that she found it too noisy to listen and learn in that room. Due to her auditory problems, she could not filter out the classroom noises and focus on her work. So, the IEP team decided to put her in the resource room (a small, quiet classroom with a special education teacher and only 4 children) to receive her specialized instruction. My daughter’s relief was immediately evident as she would tune in to her teacher, quiet her mind and think effectively. She received her specialized instruction in the resource room and began making gains. She liked going to the resource room. It was good for her, even if it was not the least restrictive environment.

Bottom Line

Knowing what your child needs and working with the IEP team to achieve individualized goals is what is most important. Two children with the same disabling condition may have two entirely different placements and IEP goals. There is no one-size-fits-all formula. INDIVIDUALIZED is the keyword.

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Note: This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started on January 16, 2013 and appears every Wednesday. Feel free to go back to look at prior posts as the series builds on itself. As always, we welcome your comments and input.

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