Some disabilities prevent the child from being fully mainstreamed with typical peers. These are the children for whom Individualized Education Teams need to find the best of both worlds. They need to be safe at school, but also need to experience as much freedom and independence as possible.

For some children, a typical classroom with minimal extra help is a least restrictive environment (LRE). For children with severe disabilities, a self-contained classroom with an aide and classmates that are also disabled may be the LRE.

The hardest children to place are the ones who have hidden disabilities that may not be understood by their typical peers, such as autism. They may have behaviors that disrupt a typical classroom, but are too high-functioning to do well in a self-contained unit. What many parents do not realize is that the LRE for their child may be different places at different times of the school day.

When the Individual Education Plan (IEP) is written, the team must evaluate where the children will be the happiest and most successful for the entire day. If a child can succeed in a typical classroom for instruction, but at recess must be closely supervised, that can be written into the IEP.

In this way, the special needs child can interact with typical peers whenever possible and still have support throughout the day. Least Restrictive Environments can be the most difficult part of the IEP to decide. Every child responds differently to school situations. Different events during the week, such as physical education or music, can change how a child reacts in his or her LRE.