The United States Department of Education gives us several gifts every year. The come by way of Dear Colleague Letters and Guidance Documents. In this episode, I’m going over a Dear Colleague Letter written back in 2011 that is super helpful in inclusion/ LRE discussions with IEP teams. The letter, “Dear Autin,” gives us two really helpful quotes about educational placement and least restrictive environment.
First, Letter to Autin (written 3/7/11) indicates that “[a]s the regulations make clear, placement decisions must be made on an individual basis. Placements that are determined based solely on the category of a child's disability are not consistent with the regulations.“ We can use this in special education to combat a district’s position that “all children with autism/ intellectual disability/ etc. are educated in a self-contained classroom/ a certain school/ a “unit.” You’ve heard this sentence, and I know what you’ve felt… “That can’t be what the law says.” Now you’ve got a paragraph, written by the USDOE, to support your advocacy.
Letter to Autin also says, “ a child's placement must be determined on an individual case-by-case basis, depending on each child's unique needs and circumstances, made at least annually, based on the child's individualized IEP, and as close as possible to the child's home. Recognizing that there is no ‘one size fits’ all approach, …” There are several great clauses in this sentence. I break them down for you in this episode and include some ideas about how to structure your advocacy to keep it centered on the particular child and his or her needs.