The Least Restrictive Environment for a Child with Disabilities


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Targeted student

A student who is an exceptional learner is one with a unique functioning level due to ones capacity and the experiences one has had before. This study will aim at analyzing the least restrictive environment for children suffering from ASD or autistic spectrum disorder. These children are at the elementary level who are aged between 5 and 14.

The current debate in on which is the most suitable environment or children suffering from autism that would best fulfill their material needs such as classrooms which are self contained or in a special school. Other groups of people argue that children suffering from this disorder on social basis should be placed in a general education or inclusion classroom for them to be able to interact with other students and learn good behavior. Such a classroom according to this school of thought is suitable for these students because they will be able to be accepted. For this paper, it will present a clarification that autism Spectrum Disorder is a different placement from students with autism and are able to be taught well what they are supposed to do and what they are not supposed to do to each other.

The best placement for students with autism: self contained classroom, inclusion or special school?

The Center for Disease Control study   has found ought that autism spectrum disorders are raising at a steady rate. Children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in the past accounted for 4.5 in each 10,000 births. The number increased to 1 in each 166 births. By 2007, the statistics showed that autism rate has increased to 1 in 150 births.  These findings therefore show that we have reached a time to place great emphasis on the approach and study of autism especially in the filed of education. The newly born children who have been diagnosed with this order are many and will directly have an impact on the modern day education system. The educators are therefore forced to find the best ways of placing children with this disorder (National Institute of Mental Health, 2007).

Academic abilities of student with autism

Many students suffering from the devastating disorder of autism suffer from great withdrawal from the social contact and reality happening in their lives. These students are also not able to keep social and normal reactions with other students due to them having problems of social delays. The students with this condition also suffer from behavioral problems like repeating certain habits. They also suffer from communication problems and constantly keep repeating words. The students movement is also not well coordinated as constantly rocking and flapping. Most of them have cognitive delays.

Other students suffering from the same disorder have shown considerable amount of problem solving abilities and have not much difficulty in communication. These however also have problems with socializing. This shows that students suffering from this condition need to be categorized as typical autism, Classical autism or Pervasive Developmental disorder. The  three  classes a child suffering  from autism can  either fall  into those with repetitive behaviors,  communication impairments  or the  ones interested   in various activities( Bregmen , 2005). The main characteristics which a child with autism portrays are lack of communication and lack of socialization. The child might also be anxious and imagine things which are not in real life and have various motor impairments.

ASD is a term which comprises of various disorders which are very much similar to the classical category of autism. A student suffering from ASD is either in the category of high functioning autism or low functioning autism.  Classical autism involves ranges of spectrum which are Pervasive Development Disorder m classical autism and Aspergers Syndrome. This is different from Childhood Disintegrative Disorder m, Rhett’s syndrome and Specified (ODD-NOS).  Both ASD and autism   are of the same class under the umbrella of autism because there are many characteristics shared.

Intervention therapies for autism are programs such as ABA, PECS and TEACCH. These programs are very helpful in improving the lives of students suffering from the condition. These programs offer socialization skills, direct instruction and on behavior change.

These programs therefore have to be determines on which  best fit the unique needs of students as the goal for each of the programs are to assist students to carry out normal  duties and achieve good results in their academics. The program TEACCH is a program developed by Connor, (1999) which in full means Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication- Handicapped Children. The program encourages cognitive, behavior and structure Interventions as well as the use of visual cues to be incorporated in direct teaching.  This program is beneficial for   older children non verbal children or children who are preverbal.

Picture Exchange communication system the students are taught by the use of pictures and students will be asked questions on what they seen in the pictures. They can respond to the questions even by juts pointing at the pictures.  This therefore is a good approach for encouraging independence of students. Applied Behavioral analysis is another approach for helping students suffering from autism (Siegel, 1999). Students are encouraged to practice the desired behaviors which are then constantly reinforced.

When it reaches a time when students are ready to join school, it becomes very hard to select the right options especially for students with autism. In most cases what parents do is to put their children in an intervention program before they join the kindergarten. In such  programs students are  based within a IEP where are  assessed for their   main needs  in which  will make teachers ad parents to come together  and  work as a team in  identifying the right placemen for the students. This situation however not always agreeable because some think that there are better ways of making and environment least restrictive for such students with autism disability. Some are in support of self contained classroom, some for inclusion classroom and some for special school.

Inclusion program

Inclusion is a teaching an approach which aims at aiming the best out of each students and for them to achieve their maximum potential. In an inclusion classroom, the class environment is least restrictive. The major debate concerning inclusion classrooms have never stopped since decades ago because of the special need of students which differ from one to another. Harmon and Jones (2005) theory  on  inclusion is that  that when students with special education are included in  a normal regular classrooms they can perform better, learn the appropriate social skills and have better concepts  that when the special learners are placed in a special classroom(Harmon& Jones, 2005, p 187). This assertion being true it may not suit the especial needs of all the students.

The theory of inclusion is also supported by the 1975 education for all the Handicapped Act which was developed to ensure that both the handicapped children and their typical peers should share the same rights. The inclusion program today ha been modified in that teacher have been trained how to handle students suffering from ASD. The community, students, parents and the school administration have worked together to ensure the success of the inclusion program. The challenge with this program is that teachers need to educate student with autism have faced various challenges in order to fully   provide for the needs of such student with disability. These challenges lead to the development of the Autism Spectrum Disorder Inclusion Collaboration model (Smith, Polloway, Patton, & Dowdy, 2001).

This new program aimed at helping student with ASD to also benefit from the typical peers around them. This program has been successful because the support staff works together with the teacher to ensure that all the students succeed. The program is divided into various parts like General Education Classroom Support, Curriculum modification, and instructional method. The attitude approach is also sufficient in helping teachers dealing with students autism. Positive attitudes are inspired to children with ASD for their success. The coordinated team Commitment is an approach which the special educator takes the responsibility of the learner with aim of making the student succeed. Generally an inclusion program assists student to learn the desirable behaviors and to socially interact with their typical peers.

Special schools

The special schools were initiated in the 1896 when the Supreme Court  passed that   students with debilities being equal to other  people had to be taken care  and taught  in their own setting. These special school institution have however been characterized by various challenges like funds making the children lack all the basics materials (D Haem, 2004). Placement of students with autism in the special, schools have today increased.

Residential placement are for those which children with various disabilities are placed after all the other options have proven unfruitful. These centers are in various regions of   America and are meant to helped students with autism have improved   living skills, and improved communication. The students with this disability are also taught sensory integration skills, hard play, life skills and academic skills. Teachers have incorporated the TEACCH method to help students with autism.

In these special schools, students with autism are taken care of by highly qualified and trained personnel who have been trained in the needs of children. Some special schools also encourage the students with disability to have time with their typical peers outside the special school setting. This improves their social interaction in day out and picnics. Both residential and special school placement over have various disadvantages associated with it. The major one is placing a group of children with autism in a single classroom which doe not have any positive model hinders them from learning the desired behaviors. The other setback of this program is that the special, educator may not have the idea of the required standard. a child who is of the  same class and age could have as compared to the one with disability, separation of the students with autism may also lead to censure and teasing  by other students who have not interacted with them  this may  further damage the  passive values instilled to them and their elf esteem as well (D Haem, 2004).

Self contained classroom

A self contained classroom is that which a student is placed in a setting which is highly structures and smaller. The special, educators teach in such a classroom. These setting are recommended for students with high needs and support such as those with emotional disorders, autism learning disabilities and behavioral disorders and any of those who finds it a challenge to be in the normal setting| (Mauro, 2007). Learning in such a setting is highly differentiated. The classroom have a range of sensory and auditory stimulation devices and encourages students to take frequent posses in between lessons because they do not have high concentration level.

Such a self contained classroom enables students with autism to   have one to one interaction with a teacher. The teacher then will understand the specific needs of each student and is able to find the best way in helping the students. The teacher is able to support the interests of each student and to use them achieve their greatest potential.  In such a setting also, there is high level of communication between the teacher and students which greatly improves the success of student. In such a classroom the disadvantage is that student who interact to one another share similar characteristics. The classes are sometimes missed due to behavior management. However  the  self contained classroom setting are of  great  benefit to students who really need the facilities and the  kind of support  provided by the self contained classroom


It is important for parents, teachers, care givers and the health practitioners to help in   ensuring students are placed in the right environment.  Children suffering from autism have to be well categorized and placed in a setting which will help them succeed in their classroom work. Each of the above mentioned settings either good or bad for a student with ASD because each has its own advantages or disadvantages. The need of students is the main aspect which determines which is the most and the least restrictive environment for a child with autism.


Smith, T., Polloway, A., Patton, J.., & Dowdy, A. (2001).  Teaching students with special needs in inclusive settings, publishers Allyn and Bacon.

Boyle, J.., & Danforth, S. (2001) Cases in special education. New York, NY:  The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

Connor M (1999) Children on the autistic spectrum: Guidelines for main stream practices, pp 80- 86

D’ Haem J (2004) Expectation in education: a short story of Inclusion

Mauro, T (2007) Choose the right special education placement for your child. Retrieved

On February 22, 2011

National institute of mental health (2007) latest ever search for autisms reveals new clues

Siegel B (1999) Autistic learning disabilities and individualizing treatments for autistic spectrum disorders, pp 27-36.


James Peter is the author and is associated with which is a global custom thesis writing  provider. If you would like help in essays, research papers, term papers and dissertations, you can visit BestEssaySite.Com

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