The IDEA requires that students be educated in the least restrictive environment. What does this mean for your child? IDEA states that children should be educated in the setting that allows them to make academic progress while limiting the restrictions placed on them. General education settings (a regular classroom) is the least restrictive environment. Inclusion services provided in the general education classroom would be the next least restrictive environment. Receiving pull-out services in a general education school is slightly more restrictive. A self-contained classroom in a general education school is more restrictive than that. Placement in a school for students with a certain disability approaches the most restrictive. Finally, a placement in a hospital for long-term care such as in a Psychiatric Treatment Residential Facility (PTRF) is the most restrictive.
The law wants students to be taught in the least restrictive setting because that is the most “normal” setting and allows for appropriate social growth and interaction with non-disabled peers. The law views this as the best way to address the special needs of disabled students and provide such students with access to the same things as their non-disabled peers.