Children with disabilities have the right to be educated with children who do not have disabilities to the extent that their special needs allow. This right is called “Least Restrictive Environment”.
1. The very least restrictive environment is full inclusion. In this situation children with a disability are in a general education classrooms with students who do not have disabilities. The special services these children need are provided for almost entirely if not completely in the regular classroom.
2. Mainstreaming means disabled students spend most of the day in regular classrooms and some of the day in special education. This is a Resource Specialist Program (RSP). Students in RSP may also have other special education services such as speech therapy. Outside of RSP they usually take part in all other aspects of the school day with non-disabled students.
3. Integration is the most restrictive environment provided at a regular public school. All academic subjects are taught in small special education classes. These young people have the right to take part in the rest of the schools activities to the extent their disability allows them to do so. This includes assemblies, recess, lunchtime and physical education.
4. A far more restrictive environment is to place the student in a non public school (NPS). Non public schools are authorized by the state of California to provide special education services for specific disabilities. Students whose needs cannot be met at a regular public school are candidates for non public schools.
5. The most restrictive environment is to place a student at a NPS with residential care when the disability is so severe that it is unsafe for the child to live at home and receive a free appropriate public education.
The decision about least restrictive environment is made at the IEP meeting.