Meaningful Inclusion- What Does it Mean?

Jan 7, 2021 | Blog, Family Engagement, IEP/504



If your child receives Special Education services, you have more than likely heard the word INCLUSION. In this post we are going to discuss ‘inclusion’ and how to make sure your student is included with typical peers in the regular classroom. 

Inclusion offers students with disabilities who receive Special Education services opportunities to learn with their non-disabled peers in regular education classrooms.  Accommodations and modifications can help make learning more accessible for them.

Another tidbit about the word inclusion is it is not mentioned in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the federal law that tells how Special Education is provided. The wording used in IDEA is ‘Least Restrictive Environment’ (LRE). If your student is receiving Special Education services, those services should be provided in the Least Restrictive Environment. When a student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) is developed, the services are to be provided in the Least Restrictive Environment where the student can make progress in the general curriculum. For most students that is the regular classroom. The IEP Team, which includes the parent, will determine what accommodations and/or modifications the student needs to be successful as they access the general curriculum. The term “least restrictive environment’ means the environment where the student can make progress in the general curriculum with the least restrictions.

As a parent, it is important to remember, “Special education is not a place. It is the most intensive intervention along the continuum of service defined by individual need, services, and placement. Strong leadership at every level is the foundation of a collaborative and inclusive environment that supports ALL students. All students are regular education students first.”  (“Special Education.” Tennessee State Government –,


Some questions parents can ask at IEP Team meetings to ensure there is a good understanding of least restrictive environment are:

·       What tools does the school have tools to help implement inclusion?

·       Do General Education & Special Education teachers have shared planning times?

·       What does the school do to help the school staff see the importance of inclusion?

·       What practices are in place and working at the school to help make inclusion more successful?

Inclusion is a concept that schools continue to work through and understand.

Least Restrictive Environment is in the IDEA – the federal law that governs special education.

Things to consider when discussing the Least Restrictive Environment:

·       Keep the focus on the student

·       Find what works best for your student to help them make progress in the general curriculum

·       Communicate often with your child’s teacher about what is or is not working for your child

Video discussing a perspective on inclusive settings: