LEAST RESTRICTIVE ENVIRONMENT
By: Carmen Willings
November 15, 2015
IDEA has the following statement on a least restrictive environment: "In general, to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities, including children in public or private institutions or other care facilities, are educated with children who are not disabled, and 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 of a child is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily."
Although the general education classroom is least restrictive for many students, it is not always the most least restrictive environment for students who are blind or visually impaired. Additionally, some students with multiple disabilities will need specialized instruction to meet the range of their needs in a separate classroom with an adapted curriculum. These two options are not always the best option for students with and without additional disabilities. Some students may have complex educational needs that may not be best addressed in their school of residency. Other educational placements such as a visual impairment resource room or at the state's school for the blind may be the best option for the student.
Teams will need to evaluate the student's needs and may need to develop a unique placement or program for the student taking advantage of a range of options. In chapter 9, Educational Programming, of Foundations of Education 2nd Edition, Vol. 1, Sandra Lewis and Carol B. Allman provide the following suggestion: "If a placement enhances a student's understanding of the world and creates an environment in which intended learning occurs, then it should be considered appropriate for the student. If a placement restricts a particular student's ability to learn, then it is inappropriate for that student, regardless of its value to other students."
According to IDEA, if an IEP team determines that the appropriate placement for a student is a private or state school, and the school district has made an appropriate educational placement available to the student, then the school district is not obligated to pay the private school's fees or fees associated with transportation. If, however, the IEP team determines that the appropriate placement for a student is a private school or school for the blind, the school district has the responsibility to pay the school's fees and transportation associated with it.
The following resources on least restrictive environment can help in determining the best placement for your student:
In the Public Policy Center of The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), you can find a great resource entitled Educating Blind and Visually Impaired Students: Policy Guidance from OSERS (The Department of Education Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services)
Learn more about IDEA on the US Department of Education website.
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Due to the nationwide shortage of vision professionals, it can be challenging to locate personnel. Announce a job vacancy on the Job Exchange of Teaching Students with Visual Impairments, an online listing of jobs specific to the visual impairment field.