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Isn’t full inclusion a child’s right?

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Suzanne writes: I am a parent advocate and the parent of a child with autism. I attended an IEP meeting for a 6 year old child with autism in a neighboring school district. 

The child’s IEP Team plans to place the child in a self-contained "learning handicapped" class. The child’s mother wants her daughter to be fully included with an aide. The IEP Team won't budge. 

Am I missing something? 

I was able to place my five-year-old daughter in a regular Kindergarten class with an aide. I didn't run into this problem. 

Isn't full inclusion a child's right?  

Pete answers:

No, full inclusion is not a right. Many parents and educators are surprised to learn that the word "inclusion" is not in the statute (although "mainstreaming" is.)

To advocate for this child with autism, you need to learn what the IDEA statute, regulations, and caselaw say about least restrictive environment, mainstreaming, FAPE, and educational benefit.

The IDEA requires that disabled chidren receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE). The least restrictive environment (LRE) requirement is often referred to as inclusion or mainstreaming.

Can school districts place children with disabilities in separate special education programs where they are segregated from children who are not disabled? Sometimes. Policies about inclusion vary from one state or jurisdiction to another -- and even between neighboring school districts. 

Read our article, IDEA Requirements: Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) and FAPE. In this article, we discuss the concepts of LRE, mainstreaming, inclusion, FAPE, and educational benefit.

In this article, you will learn that courts have issued different opinions on this issue - some courts emphasize the need to provide a free appropriate education and educational benefit. Other courts focus on the need to educate the child with nondisabled children.

When you finish reading IDEA Requirements: Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) and FAPE, you will understand why we cannot give a clear "yes" or "no" answer to your questions about inclusion.

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