The decision about where your child will receive Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) services is called “placement.” The “least restrictive environment” (LRE) means the place where your child can be included with his peers who do not have disabilities as much as possible and still be able to accomplish the goals in his Individualized Education Program (IEP).
One of the Admission, Review and Dismissal (ARD) committee’s tasks is to examine the choices of learning environments and search for the place that is the best fit for your child’s strengths and needs while also being with his typically developing peers as much as possible. This place would be your child’s least restrictive environment. Since you are an important member of your child’s ARD committee, you will have a say in making this decision.
The choices of ECSE settings include all the placement options where your child can receive special education services. These might include a prekindergarten/collaborative classroom, Head Start, a school district preschool or child care, a collaborative public school and private preschool program, or a self-contained, special education classroom in a public school.
Also see a graphic representation of a variety of Preschool Least Restrictive Environments (PDF) that can be offered through Early Childhood Special Education.
The ECSE placement options vary in different school districts across Texas. If no one tells you about the ECSE settings in your school district, ask the special education administrator or the principal at your local public school.
Parents should be a part of any decision on placement. Placement decisions must:
- Be made at least once every year
- Be based on the child’s individual needs as addressed in the IEP
- Take into consideration any harmful effects to the child
- Be made based on your child’s evaluations, not on his disability “label” or what is convenient to the program staff
According to IDEA: The Manual for Parents and Students about Special Education Services in Texas (PDF) from the Arc of Texas and Disability Rights Texas, when choosing a placement, priority should be given to:
- A school that is as close to the child's home as possible
- The school the child would attend if he did not have a disability
- An environment where the child is with typically-developing peers as much as possible.
Download Preschool Least Restrictive Environments/Settings (PDF) for an overview of the different types of ECSE placement options.
The Legal Framework is an online resource that provides state and federal requirements for special education. You will find an overview of the laws regarding least restrictive environment for preschool-aged children.