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Preparing a Child for Transitions to Less Restrictive Educational Settings. Mark L. Sundberg, Ph.D., BCBA-D ( ). The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) .

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preparing a child for transitions to less restrictive educational settings

Preparing a Child for Transitions to Less Restrictive Educational Settings

Mark L. Sundberg, Ph.D., BCBA-D


the individuals with disabilities education act idea and least restrictive environment lre
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)
  • The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that all children with disabilities must be educated in the least restrictive environment (LRE) that is appropriate for them
  • Specifically the law states that, “to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities…are educated with children who are not disabled, and that special classes, separate schooling…occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.” IDEA Sec. 612 (5) (B)
the individuals with disabilities education act idea and least restrictive environment lre1
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)
  • There are two parts to the LRE requirement of the IDEA
  • The first addresses the presumptive right of all students with disabilities to be educated with students without disabilities
  • Schools must make good faith efforts to place and maintain students in less restrictive settings
  • The second part is that this presumptive right is rebuttable when integration is not appropriate for a student (Turnbull & Turnbull, 2002)
  • The IDEA favors integration (part-time placement) or inclusion (full-time placement), but recognizes that for some students more restrictive or segregated settings may be appropriate
the individuals with disabilities education act idea and least restrictive environment lre2
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)
  • The law anticipates that placements in more restrictive settings may sometimes be necessary to provide an appropriate education
  • The slippery slope: What is “appropriate,” and what is the “least restrictive?”
  • These terms are often interpreted differently from one school district to another, one professional to another, and one parent to another
  • The main issue is: In what type of educational placement will the child make the most meaningful and measurable progress?
  • In general, a continuum of restrictiveness goes from 1:1 in-home to full inclusion without an aide
  • But inclusion could be the most restrictive, as could 1:1
transition decisions
Transition Decisions
  • The IEP team is responsible for placement
  • It is not uncommon to base transition decisions on personal beliefs, a movement, policy, emotion, or economics
  • Some children are gratuitously moved to an LRE, while others are not moved, but should be
  • Can we assess a child’s potential for learning in an LRE?
  • What are the skills necessary to learn in an LRE?
  • Can we provide an objective basis for decision making?
  • How and when do we prepare a child for transition?
  • How is learning measured in an LRE? Is it working?
what does it take to teach a specific child
What Does it Take to Teacha Specific Child?
  • The placement decision should be based on what type of educational setting and instructional format will be of the best value to the child
  • I will suggest 18 domains that can provide an empirical basis for decision making
  • For clarity, the focus of this presentation will be on moving children from self-contained classrooms to the form of LRE available in regular education settings, including special classrooms designed for children with speech and language delays, learning handicaps, or communicatively impaired
level of existing verbal and related skills
Level of Existing Verbal and Related Skills
  • Issue: A child must have sufficient language skills to access the curriculum in an LRE. Language is more important than academics, social skills, or being near typically developing peers. Clearly this does not mean a nonverbal child will not benefit from being with typically developing peers, the issue is what is the educational priority
  • Measurement of Language Skills: VB-MAPP Milestones scores
what does it take to teach a child scoring in level 1 of the vb mapp
What Does it Take to Teach a Child Scoring in Level 1 of the VB-MAPP?
  • Intensive teaching using evidence-based intervention procedures derived from Behavior Analysis (National Standards Project)
  • A behavior analyst on the team
  • Staff who are skilled in the use of prompting, fading, shaping differential reinforcement, etc.
  • A behavioral language intervention program (i.e., mand training, tact and listener training, echoic and imitation training)
  • Staff who are skilled in the use of procedures for teaching verbal behavior, reducing behavior problems and barriers, etc.
  • A supervisory and data collection system, classroom structure
  • Parent training
  • Are these elements available in an LRE?
what does it take to teach a child scoring in level 2 of the vb mapp
What Does it Take to Teach a Child Scoring in Level 2 of the VB-MAPP?
  • An intensive intervention program including all of the Level 1 components
  • A more complex language intervention curriculum (e.g., noun-verb combinations, intraverbals, mands for information)
  • Staff trained in these more advanced teaching procedures, as well as group instruction, NET procedures, behavioral intervention programs, self-help skills, etc.
  • Access to peers and staff trained in developing social skills
  • Careful analyses of existing and emerging barriers, and the skills to ameliorate them
  • Are these elements available in an LRE?
what does it take to teach a child scoring in level 3 of the vb mapp
What Does it Take to Teach a Child Scoring in Level 3 of the VB-MAPP?
  • A classroom that provides group instruction, advanced language training, NET language training, social skills training, beginning academics, independence, etc.
  • An advanced language and social skills curriculum
  • Constant content demands
  • Trained staff, supervision system, data collection system
  • A bigger focus on an integration program
  • Are these elements available in an LRE?
presence of barriers affecting learning
Presence of Barriers Affecting Learning
  • Issue: Negative behaviors, noncompliance, aggression, etc., are less tolerated in an LRE
  • Early needs: Functional and descriptive behavior analyses, careful intervention program, intensive language intervention program, data collection, well trained staff, supervision
  • LRE: Staff are usually not equipped to work with behavior problems and other barriers
  • How to get there: Establish early control of negative behaviors (pre-school), employment of a behavior analyst, establish verbal repertoires in a developmental sequence, parent training and involvement, on-going analyses
instructional control
Instructional Control
  • Issue: Teachers must have instructional control (stimulus control), especially from a distance (e.g., 10 feet), and in a group teaching format
  • Early needs: Careful development of compliance with prompts, fading, and differential reinforcement, followed by reinforcement schedule adjustments
  • LRE: Instructional control methodology, and staff availability limited
  • How to get there: establish strong instructional control early on, generalize, establish instructional control in a group setting, fade out reinforcement, increase responses requirements
1 1 vs group instruction
1:1 vs. Group Instruction
  • Issue: Group instruction is the primary educational format of an LRE
  • Early needs: 1:1 or 1:2 is essential for some children to learn, intensive teaching, numerous trials, correction procedures, work towards fluency, careful use of ABA technology
  • LRE: Low teacher-to-student ratio (e.g., 1:15); 1:1 aide often defeats the purpose, more restrictive
  • How to get there: Systematically establish group learning skills early in the program, move instruction away from a 1:1 teaching format ASAP for most activities
pitfalls of too much 1 1 instruction
Pitfalls of too Much 1:1 Instruction
  • High rate of adult attention and reinforcement delivery
  • Strong adult stimulus control established
  • Needs anticipated, responses prompted, errorless learning, long latencies tolerated, approximations reinforced, immediate reinforcement delivered, mild aversive control (e.g., CMO-R), etc.
  • Minimal learning may occur outside of direct adult engagement
  • Established adult dependence and control; transition to group instruction with less adult control may become more difficult
  • Peer interaction may be adversely affected (e.g., peers don’t reinforce, prompt, or wait for responses)
  • May be hard to learn to share reinforcers, give up reinforcers, take turns, wait, tolerate “no,” attend to peers, etc.
  • Issue: Generalization is a fundamental element for learning in an LRE
  • Early needs: Carefully establish stimulus and response generalization, stimulus and response classes, use of multiple exemplar training (MET), general case programming, and mixed VB teaching procedures
  • LRE: Minimal generalization training provided, expect quick generalization, class formation, transfer, emergence, etc.
  • How to get there: Systematic inclusion of generalization procedures early on and across all skills (e.g., Stokes & Baer, 1977; Greer & Ross, 2008)
reinforcement type and schedule
Reinforcement Type and Schedule
  • Issue: Learning needs to occur under minimal reinforcement conditions
  • Early needs: CRF, edibles, tangibles, praise, tokens, small VRs, etc.
  • LRE: Thin and intermittent schedules occur in LREs, no edibles, tangibles, tokens, systematic schedule manipulation, mild punishment common (e.g., reprimands)
  • How to get there: systematic thinning of reinforcement schedules, develop a resistance to extinction (behavioral persistence), eliminate edibles and tangibles, move to social praise, and establish automatic reinforcers(response product is reinforcing)
  • Issue: Targeted skills need to remain in the repertoire and are essential for building new and related skills
  • Early needs: Frequent maintenance trials, vary irrelevant features (MET), carefully designed curriculum
  • LRE: Minimal maintenance training conducted, constant flow of new content
  • How to get there: Use an appropriate curriculum sequence, be assured the skill is actually acquired, establish functional use of skills, incorporate known skills into more complex skills (e.g., acquired nouns used in noun-verb combinations, LRFFC, IV, textual)
learning from the natural environment
Learning from the Natural Environment
  • Issue: Learning needs to occur without formal trial presentations (DTT)
  • Early needs: Careful structured teaching, some natural environment teaching (NET)
  • LRE: Minimal individual structured teaching
  • Intervention: systematic increase of NET, program for observational learning, reduce prompt and reinforcement dependency, increase group instruction, learn to respond to naturally occurring aversive events, develop academic independence
demonstrates transfer among the verbal and listener skills
Demonstrates Transfer Among the Verbal and Listener Skills
  • Issue: Learning needs to be generative, new skills emerge from existing skills, novel responding, variability
  • Early needs: Establish basic skills
  • LRE: Transfer expected
  • How to get there: Mixed verbal behavior (VB) procedures, MET, transfer and generalization procedures, frequent contact with novel material
social behavior and social play
Social Behavior and Social Play
  • Issue: Social deficits are a major element of the diagnostic criteria for autism
  • Early needs: use of systematic behavioral procedures to establish play skills, parallel play, motor imitation, manding to peers, responding to the mands from peers, etc.
  • LRE: Many social opportunities exist (often the main rationale for movement to an LRE), but prerequisite skills are required to access the benefits of peers
  • How to get there: Implementation of a daily social interaction program, pair peers with reinforcers, reverse mainstreaming, break free from 1:1 adult control and delivery of SDs and reinforcers, reduce the use of minor aversive control, etc.
working independently on academic tasks
Working Independently on Academic Tasks
  • Issue: Many activities in an LRE require independent work
  • Early needs: Focus on skill development first, then independence
  • LRE: Independence expected; worksheets, silent reading, group projects, etc.
  • How to get there: Start developing independent tasks early in the program, differential reinforcement of longer intervals of independent work, fade out prompts to work, use intermittent reinforcement, etc.
final six areas
Final Six Areas
  • Adaptability to Change
  • Spontaneous Behaviors
  • Self-directed Play and Leisure Skills
  • General Self-help Skills
  • Toileting Skills
  • Eating Skills
  • Transition is a gradual process, not an end of year or age-timed event
  • Preparation for transition should begin early in a program
  • It is too late to start working on skills when already in transition (e.g., instructional control, turn taking, giving up reinforcers, VB skills, independence, classroom routines, group instructions)
  • LRE placement is often based on personal beliefs, emotions, policy, economics, or a “movement,” but not based on: In what educational environment can the child learn the best?
  • A large collection of skills are involved
  • Language skills (i.e., mands, tacts, intraverbals, and listener skills) are usually the primary indicator of potential success in an LRE
  • Time with typical peers, while important, should not come at the cost of developing important verbal and other related skills
  • Regular education staff may not have the necessary skills, time, or resources for effectively teaching children with autism
  • A 1:1 aide does not solve the problem and may be more restrictive
  • A 1:1 aide may not have the necessary teaching and behavioral skills, environmental control, or supervision
  • If the student cannot access the curriculum the placement is gratuitous
  • Transitions to an LRE can be very successful
  • There are many variations of movement to an LRE
  • Inclusion in school wide activities
  • Reverse mainstreaming
  • Lunch and recess
  • Short session regarding individual strengths (e.g., math)
  • Practice content in more restricted setting
  • For more ways to make inclusion work see for example, De Boer, 2010; Leaf, Taubaum & McEachin, 2008; Taubaum, Leaf, & McEachin, 2010