Developing Your Child's IEP - Deciding Your Child's Placement
What is placement? How is my child's placement decided?
Once the IEP team has decided what services your child needs, a decision must be made about where services will be provided. Where your child's IEP is carried out is called placement. You as the parent have the right to be part of the group that decides your child's placement.
In deciding your child's placement, the group must make sure that your child has the maximum opportunity appropriate to learn with children who do not have disabilities-in academic, nonacademic, and extracurricular activities. This part of the law is called Least Restrictive Environment or LRE.
Least Restrictive Environment is explained in the IDEA as follows:
"... To the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities ... are educated with children who are nondisabled; and ... special classes, separate schooling or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only if the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily."
IDEA also says:
The child's placement is determined at least annually; is based on the child's IEP; and is as close as possible to the child's home.
Unless the IEP requires some other arrangement, the child is educated in the school that he or she would attend if nondisabled.
When looking at placement options, consideration must be given to any potential harmful effect on the child or on the quality of services that he or she needs.
A child with a disability may not be removed from education in age-appropriate regular classrooms just because he or she needs modifications to the general curriculum.
Often, the IEP team makes the placement decision. In some places, the placement decision is made by another group of people. In either case, under IDEA, the group that makes the placement decision must include you, as the parent(s) and others who:
- are knowledgeable about your child;
- understand the meaning of your child's evaluation data; and
- know the placement options.
When discussing placement, the group should consider your child's unique needs and determine what the least restrictive placement for your child is, based upon those needs. A placement that is least restrictive for one child may not be least restrictive for another. What is least restrictive for each child is based on that child's unique needs. This means that the school system cannot use a "one size fits all" approach to educating children who have a disability. Decisions must be based on individual needs as stated in the IEP, not on-
the child's disabling condition or label (such as placement in a special class for students with mental retardation just because a child has cognitive impairments),
disability program categories (placement in an particular LD program just because a child needs LD services),
the location of staff,
the funds that are available, or
the convenience of the school district.
In making placement decisions, the group looks to another important part of the IDEA, the continuum of alternative placements. The continuum includes the different options where children can receive services. These options include placements such as:
- a general education class
- a special education class
- a special education school
- at home, or
- in a hospital or other public or private institution.
A student's placement in the general education classroom is the first option the placement group should consider. Can your child be educated satisfactorily in the general education classroom? What aids, services, and supports does your child need to make this possible? If the group decides that your child's needs can be met in the general education class, with supports, then that placement is the least restrictive environment for your child.
Reprinted with the permission of the Department of Health and Human Services.
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