Inclusion in the Least Restrictive Environment
If you wonder why inclusion is such an important practice in schools, think about this. What if you had a child or a brother or sister who had a disability? You would care about your sibling or child regardless of whether they had some type of disability. What if you were told your brother would never be allowed to do the things that other children do because of their disability? What if they told you that your child could never be placed in a regular school and would have to be isolated with others who had the same disability? Certainly, you understand that the disability would place limits on your brother, but wouldn’t you want him to be around other students in a regular school setting. Inclusion offers students with disabilities a chance for socialization and the opportunity to learn how to cope in society. Many people with disabilities have accomplished much. We all want the best for all students. Even though there are times when inclusion seems to make your job harder, don’t forget that it may also be your shining moment because you helped someone who didn’t have the same opportunities you had. Taking care of others less fortunate is the mark of a great teacher and a great society.
The term “least restrictive environment” (LRE) is used to help determine the best placement for students with disabilities. This concept refers to the idea that not all individuals can do all of the same activities in the same environment. However, the concept of zero reject entitles everyone of school age to some aspect of the school program. No one can be totally rejected because of a disability. All students, regardless of ability level, must have access to physical education. Thus, once it is established that a child has unique physical education needs, it is essential that the most appropriate educational setting be determined.
For a given student, the LRE can vary from day to day and could change within a given lesson. It will also vary depending on the unit of instruction and the teaching style. For a student in a wheelchair, for example, a jump-rope activity might be very restrictive, whereas basketball or Frisbee activities would be less restrictive. Consistent and on-going judgments need to be made since curriculum content and teaching styles can change the type of environment the student enters. In physical education, the environment is more than the physical surroundings (e.g., the equipment, the students, and the gym), but also the environmental climate created by teacher choices and attitudes. It is short-sighted to place students into a situation and then forget about them or to assume that one teaching style or activity will always create the LRE. Evaluation and modification of environments need to be continuous. Chances are that the LRE may change over time. However, the goal never changes; that we offer all students successful experiences for all programs offered by schools.
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