Least restrictive environment was developed as part of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004) and reads:
In general.–To the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities, including children in public or private institutions or other care facilities, are educated with children who are not disabled, and special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability of a child is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.
In essence LRE is the basis for the idea of modern inclusive education. This sounds great, but how does this work? Usually, if a student with a disability can do what the other, “neuro-typical” students can do then they are “mainstreamed,” which usually requires a great deal of effort by the student and the student’s family to keep up with the class. This can become taxing on the student and their family. If the student can’t keep up, then another “more appropriate” setting is implemented, such as self-contained classrooms. Thus the least restrictive environment model is predicated on the deficit model of educating students with disabilities, which I have discussed in this space before.
On the other hand, positive niche construction is a strengths-based approach to educating students with disabilities.Reimagining Inclusion with Positive Niche Construction |
Niche construction is an alternative to LRE that is not predicated on the deficit model.