One of the provisions of IDEA is Least Restrictive Environment, and it can sometimes be tricky to understand what this means exactly.
By law, schools are required to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment that is appropriate to the individual student’s needs.
At its most basic level, “least restrictive environment” means that a student with a disability should be allowed to be educated with non-disabled peers.
If needed, the student will have access to supplementary aids and services if placed in a regular classroom with non-disabled peers. These supplements may be necessary to achieve educational goals.
The IEP may describe days or times during the week when the child will be pulled out of the regular classroom. Usually this is for an hour or maybe two and it could be several days of the week. The rest of the time the child will be in the regular classroom which is ideal.
The tricky part comes in when you review each individual child and the extent of their disability. For some, it just won’t work for the student or their peers to be together in class because of disruptions or the extra time needed to teach the student or for the student to keep up with the pace.
So if the child doesn’t fit into the classroom, it’s even more important to find areas that they CAN be together with their peers. At lower grades it can be difficult because of the maturity factor of most kids. But as they grow older and begin to understand what disabilities are about and become more comfortable with the situation, it is vital that some form of integration take place.
Recess, lunch, and other school activities outside of the classroom are great places to start. After-school clubs are also good. Even integration into specialized classes such as computers, where LD children often excel, should be viewed as places where kids can be together.
The social aspects are important, but sometimes just seeing how the other kids interact with each other can do wonders for learning how to live in a very difficult world.