Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)
Children who are eligible for special education services must be educated in the "least restrictive environment (LRE)." LRE mandates that, "to the maximum extent appropriate, students with disabilities aged 3 through 21, in public or private institutions or other care facilities, are educated with children who are not disabled" [34 C.F.R. §300.550 (b)(1)].
How this is operationalized within the context of early childhood is changing as additional research demonstrates the benefits of educating all children together, regardless of label. More effort is being made to keep children in the setting they would be in if they didn't have a recognized disability. Blended classrooms that have funding from a variety of sources are also being created to serve a wider variety of children.
Parents have a right and responsibility through the Individualized Education Program (IEP) process to express their desires for how they envision their child's least restrictive environment.
Additional information on LRE is available through: