Preschool through Kindergarten NE/LRE Team Decision Making Module  

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Reflect on this...

  • • Natural environment and least restrictive environment are the legal terms in the IDEA addressing inclusion and inclusive education.
  • • The NE/LRE mandate requires teams to first consider inclusive early childhood settings for providing special preschool services to young children with disabilities.

Legal Requirements Supporting an Inclusive Early Childhood Education

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

The least restrictive environment (LRE) is the setting in which a child with a disability receives a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) while being educated with peers without disabilities, to the maximum extent appropriate. The comparable term, natural environments (NE), for children continuing in early intervention under the Extended Option refers to home and community settings where peers without disabilities participate.

The NE/LRE placement is the early childhood setting a child would attend if not disabled, and is as close as possible to the child’s home. The NE/LRE Community Circle displays options for inclusive early childhood settings in Maryland. Only when a child’s participation in an inclusive early childhood setting, with supplementary aids and services, cannot be satisfactorily achieved is a more restrictive or specialized setting selected as the NE/LRE.

IDEA and COMAR (Code of Maryland Regulations) addressing NE and LRE for children, ages 3 through kindergarten, are identified in these charts:

  1. Defining NE and LRE
  2. Making LRE team decisions
  3. Exceptions to NE and LRE 

Natural environments (NE) means settings that are natural or typical for a same aged infant or toddler without a disability, may include the home or community settings, and must be consistent with the provisions of §303.126

Each system must include policies and procedures to ensure that early intervention services for infants and toddlers with disabilities are provided-
(a) To the maximum extent appropriate, in natural environments; and
(b) In settings other than the natural environment that are most appropriate, as determined by the parent and the IFSP Team, only when early intervention services cannot be achieved satisfactorily in a natural environment.