Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) & Free and Appropriate Education (FAPE)
Special education is governed by two federal laws: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). These two laws are undeniably complex, but the promises they make to students are simple; All students are entitled to a free and appropriate education (FAPE), and that should occur in the least restrictive environment (LRE) possible.
These promises are the motivation for any accommodation a school offers your child and should also underpin any requests you make of the school. As you prepare to collaborate with your child’s district, it may be important to have a bit of context for these laws and their implementation. While fully aware that no blog post can do this topic justice, I’ve laid out some facts that often make their way into consultations with families below:Advocacy:
IDEA was passed as a direct result of the disability advocates – most notably parents – organizing. While I know it can be uncomfortable to push for what your child needs, your dedication and time spent make schools better for all students.
If your child has a qualifying diagnosis, they are eligible for an IEP or a 504 even if they do not need extensive special education services. The idea of FAPE and LRE is that children with neuro-differences must have access to pedagogy that supports them.
Limiting Special Education
The intent of IDEA and LRE is actually to limit special education to very few students and instead build up support in the general education classroom so as to support as many learners as possible there. Many of the “accommodations” that I recommend for children really do benefit all of the students in the classroom, and you are also supporting them all by insisting they are applied.
As you can no doubt imagine, meeting every child’s educational needs is expensive. When IDEA was passed, the federal government promised to cover 40% of the additional costs to schools when educating all learners but has consistently only covered about 15% of those costs. This fact has significant ripple effects throughout all school budgeting decisions & significantly impacts the services schools can reasonably provide. If they are to be implemented consistently, proposed accommodations need to be reasonable within these limited budgets.
If you have more questions about the practicalities of LRE and FAPE for your child, email Jenna to set up a consultation.