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  1. 1. Least Restrictive Environment In 1975 Congress passed a Public Law Public Law 94-142(Education of AllHandicapped Children Act) which is now referred to as The IDEA (Individuals withDisabilities Act). In order to receive Federal funding States must prove that they areproviding a free and appropriate Education for these students. IDEA became a law in2004. The scenario that will be used in this article is a Special Education student inNew York City public school System. The student is 14 years old and she has beendiagnosed as Mentally Challenged and Multiply Handicapped. She is non verbal, butuses a voice output communication device. She is able to communicate most wantsand needs by using her device. The device that she uses is a Dynavox. The Dynavoxis a very sophisticated device that can be programmed to be used in the classroomacross all curriculum environments. The student’s mother and father feel that she is very high functioning and hercognitive skills support her parent’s beliefs. The student’s parent’s request anEducational conference to address her needs and her future. The attendees at theconference will be The Special Education Coordinator, The Special EducationClassroom Teacher, The Speech Therapist, The Physical Therapist and OccupationalTherapist. The parents also have decided that they would like their family lawyer toattend. The student also has to attend the conference, in the New York City Schools.The Unit Coordinator is basically their as a community representative making surethat all documents are signed at the meeting. The Coordinator will also make sure thatthe flow of the meeting remains on topic. The day of the meeting all Attendees enterthe room and the IEP is presented (Individualized Education Plan). Each disciplinespeaks about the student, The Speech Therapist “says that the student is able to usethe Dynavox to communicate in all settings”. “She uses the device in Science class,math class, English Language Arts class, Social Studies in Adaptive physicalEducation mainly for requesting”. The occupational therapist says that “the student isable to use a pen but she needs a special attachment for the pen to move”. The
  2. 2. student has limited manual dexterity skills, but is able to write slowly by using themechanical pen attachment. The Physical therapist agrees that although her physicalskills are limited “she has the cognitive skills to learn how to work a power chair. Theclassroom teacher states that “the Dynavox voice output device is used throughout theday across all curriculum areas and that this student should move forward to a regularclassroom setting. Research based on least restrictive Environment. The words least restrictive environment and inclusion will beused interchangeably during this research discussion. UnderFederal Law districts are required to provide a free and appropriatepublic education (FAPE) Since the Public law of 1975 was passedschools have been required to provide children with disabilities aFree and appropriate education in the least restrictive environment(Department of Education Learning Supports). Education in a leastrestrictive environment can be left to interpretation some peoplefeel that a Special Education Program with students that arementally and physically challenged should all be in SpecialEducation classrooms on the first floor of a building with anelevator to travel around the building. There are some people thatfeel that these children can function in a regular classroom if theprovisions are made and the students have the cognitive abilities tofunction in a regular classroom. In the 1980’s and 1990’s The most important issue in specialeducation was where students with disabilities should be taught theschools and classrooms that they should attend, was a priority overwhat they should be taught.There is no record of any leader inspecial education ever saying that all students with disabilitiesshould be taught in separate schools and classrooms. “Moreoverthese advocates urge that all students with disabilities attend
  3. 3. ordinary classrooms alongside nondisabled classmates for most orall the school day” (e.g., Lipsky& Gartner, 1997; Stainback&Stainback, 1991). The opposing argument is that a full continuumof alternative placements ranging from regular classrooms toresource classes, Special-contained classes, and special day orresidential schools and hospitals is necessary if every student witha disability is to receive an appropriate education (e.g.,Bateman,1996; Kauffman& Hallahan, 1993). Determination ofleast restrictive environment must include consideration of astudent’s specific handicap. What is an IEP? The IEP is an individualized education planthat means that the plan is tailored for the individual studentsneeds. In a Special Education class with students that are classifiedas physically and mentally challenged. The professionals thatwould contribute to the IEP are the Classroom Teacher, PhysicalTherapist, Speech Therapist, Occupational Therapist, and theparent. Yes nothing on the IEP is official unless the parent agreesto it. Legally this document can’t move forward unless the parentsigns it. If the parent disagrees with any aspect of the IEP now orin the future they have a right to call an Impartial Hearing to makechanges. “The demand for educational change and reform in ournation is long-standing (national Commission on Excellence inEducation, 1983). Today schools are challenged to educatestudents in a fast growing Technological environment. Theincreasingly diverse population in schools and in the workplacedemands that people interact and work well together (villa&Thousand, 1929b). The face of Special education is experiencingincreased pressures to change. The face of special education andthe relationships among professionals are evolving as schoolsystems move toward integrative full service delivery models (eg.,Pfeiffer& reddy,1998; reddy& barboza-whitehead,1998).
  4. 4. Inclusion has emerged as one of the most widely debateddiscussions in education today. Consensus on what constitutesinclusive schools is lacking (e.g., Townsend& paul, 1997).Inclusive schools have different definitions, some school districtsplace students in one or more regular classrooms, some schoolsplace all students with disabilities in general education full time.The definition of general inclusion refers to educating studentswith mild to severe disabilities in the general education classroom.Advocates of full inclusion believe that restricting students withdisabilities from full participation in general education fails toserve their needs, is stigmatizing, and deprives them from rich anddiverse academic and social opportunities found in generaleducation(e.g., Gartner Lipsky, 1987; Stainback& Stainback,1992;1996).