This post focuses mostly on how to ensure you are maintaining the Least Restrictive Environment for even the most behavioral students who are being served in self-contained classrooms or on alternative school sites. While I refer specifically to students with Emotional and Behaavioral Disorders in this post it, my tips can be applied to those with behaviors associated with Autism, ADHD, Learning Disabilities, etc.
The Least Restrictive Environment is a term used in education to describe where on the continuum a student's need can be met, while keeping in mind that it is best practice to allow access to the general education setting as much as possible. There should ALWAYS be a discussion of Least Restrictive Environment at each IEP meeting, where the team determines if there are any other mainstreaming opportunities for the individual. Yes, this sounds obvious, but you would be surprised how much this does NOT happen. In many instances, a student's behavior impedes their learning to the point that he or she is placed outside of general education for most, if not all, of their day. If prevention, intervention, appropriate staff training, and staff perspective taking strategies are implemented properly, the need for more restrictive placements for these students should decrease.
For mild to moderate EBD students already being served in self-contained classrooms or separate school sites, these placements should be considered a remedial program with the ultimate goal of re-entry into some level of general education rather than utilizing the classrooms as warehouses for behavior. It takes more work to be proactive than it does to be reactive, but it also has higher benefits for all students with disabilities and those at-risk. Intervention strategies in these classrooms and for the students must be used as measurements of behavior and aid in decisions regarding mainstreaming. Students often show a steady decrease in behaviors after entering these intensive programs or classes. Data-based behavior tracking is already embedded into these environments (or it SHOULD be), making it easily accessilbe for the team. This behavior data should be utilized in order to determine appropriate transition plans for students to spend as much of their day as possible in general education. The most important part to remember is that decisions regarding transitions and inclusion should be based on data and a team decision!
Tips: Creating a Data-Based Inclusion or Behavior Transition Plan
Step one: Track student behavioral progress for at least 8 consecutive weeks before
beginning any transitions, but many students will need longer. Those who have
made both significant and consistent progress as well as reaching pre-
determined behavior goals should be considered for a transition plan.
For example, John is an ED student placed in a self-contained classroom on a regular school campus. He currently is included with his general education peers solely for recess and lunch. Since his behaviors have decreased, his academic performance has significantly increased and is now approaching grade level in all areas. At his last IEP, the team discussed specifically what John's behavioral progress would have to look like in order to discuss transition into inclusion. John has now shown the progress the team was looking for... John has earned at least 80% of his total possible daily points focusing on following directions, completing work, and maintaining good personal space for 8 consecutive weeks. He has shown 0 instances of aggressive behaviors for 8 consecutive weeks and has shown adequate progress on his IEP behavior goals in the areas of on-task behavior and emotional regulation. The team will hold an IEP and determine transition plan for inclusion.
Step two: Call an IEP meeting for the team to discuss the behavior progress
and plan for inclusion transition. This meeting should include all members; General Education Teacher, Special Education Teacher, School Psychologist, Administrator, and Service Providers.
Step three: Create the plan and put it in writing. The transition plan should include very small steps to ensure success. Most students will begin with entering the general education classroom or comprehensive school site for short periods of time and with the support of an aide they are familiar with. It is important to carry all aspects of the students behavior plan to the new environment and behavior tracking should continue as well. Communication between schools/classrooms is key in this process. The team should consider beginning the transition with the subjects the student is most successful in (whether that be science, PE, art, etc.) Each stage of transition should last at least 2 weeks, but can be expanded depending on the success and needs of each individual student.
Step four: Use behavior data to determine decisions regarding movement to
each next level of the transition plan. Each step up in the transition plan should
include either increased time in the new environment or decreased aid support,
but be cautious about doing both at one time as this could be too large of a
step. We want to make sure the student will succeed at each level and they
should only be moved to the next level of the plan if the student displays
consistent behavioral progress in the new environment. (See example above)
Step five: Consider permanent change of placement. At this time another IEP
meeting should be held to determine if the student would benefit from a change
of placement to either a comprehensive school site or a less severe classroom.
Sometimes it is beneficial for the student to maintain their current classroom
simply as homeroom while spending a majority of their day in another
environment. These are all considerations to be made by the IEP team.