The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) was originally passed in 1975. It was known as P.L. 94-142. According to this law, children were to receive a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment. This cornerstone of the law remains unchanged today. The federal regulations say that “to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities are educated with children who are nondisabled; and special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only if the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.” (CFR 300.114)
The law goes on to say that educational placement for students with disabilities is to:
- be determined at least annually;
- be based on the student’s IEP;
- be as close as possible to the student’s home; and,
- consider any potential harmful effect on the student or on the quality of services needed.
Furthermore, a student with a disability is not to be removed from education in age-appropriate classrooms solely because of needed modifications in the general curriculum.
To the maximum extent appropriate, services are to:
- be provided in the school that the student would normally attend if nondisabled;
- be provided in the general education classroom;
- include supplementary aids and services to support the student in the general education classroom;
- be provided, as necessary, during nonacademic and extra-curricular activities; and,
- be provided with nondisabled students.
What are Supplementary Aids and Services?
In order to serve a student in a regular education classroom, the school must provide supplementary aids and services to help ensure his or her education is a success. Also, supplementary aids and services must be provided in extracurricular or nonacademic settings, such as lunchrooms, student clubs, athletics, and so on. These services help the student be educated with students without disabilities as much as possible. Examples of supplementary aids and services may include paraeducators or interpreter services, assistive technology devices and services, consulting teachers, environmental adaptations, note takers, and modifications to the regular class curriculum. Supplemental aids and services must be listed on the student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP).
Some things to think about…
IEP teams, including the parents, determine a student’s placement annually. It is helpful to ask the following questions when making decisions about placement.
- Where would my child go to school if he/she didn’t have a disability?
- Where do my other children attend school?
- What changes would have to be made at the school for my child to attend? (Physically accessible? Interpreter? Transportation? Changes to the curriculum?)
- What do I want for my child’s future?
- What skills will my child need to learn in order to have this future?
The Role of the General Education Teacher
The law says that at least one general education teacher must be present at the IEP team meeting, if the child is, or may be, participating in the general education environment. The general education teacher is knowledgeable about the curriculum, appropriate activities of typically developing peers, and how the child’s disability affects the child’s participation in the curriculum and activities. General educators assist in the development of the IEP by helping determine:
- positive behavioral interventions and strategies;
- supplemental aids and services;
- program modifications; and,
- supports for personnel that enable teachers to work with the child.