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3 Things an IEP Expert Wants Parents to Know About FAPE and LRE

3 Things an IEP Expert Wants Parents to Know About FAPE and LRE

Published: Mar. 23, 2022Updated: Oct. 10, 2023

The law says that children with disabilities must be educated in the least restrictive environment (LRE) that will meet their needs. This means that public schools are required to provide a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) to all students with disabilities and place them in a classroom with their nondisabled peers to the greatest extent possible. But how can you actually use this law to advocate for your child, and what are the limitations? We talked to Dr. Sarah Pelangka, special education advocate, BCBA-D, and owner of KnowIEPs, on March 17, 2022, about understanding FAPE and LRE, especially when it comes to developing an IEP. Here are the top three takeaways for parents to know!

An "appropriate" education is subjective

The "appropriate" part of a free, appropriate public education is the most difficult to pin down and can lead to disagreements among members of the IEP team. However, as Dr. Pelangka explains, the whole IEP team is responsible for what an appropriate education looks like for an individual child, so they need to come to an agreement on whether the education provides "meaningful benefit" for the student. Listen to her advice in this clip about what that means:

How to recognize violations of FAPE

Conflicts between parents and the school district can range from minor issues, like documentation going missing, to larger problems like a child not receiving the services written into their IEP. However, any violation of FAPE is serious and needs to be addressed because it affects the quality of education the student receives. In this clip, Dr. Pelangka gives advice to parents about recognizing violations, including examples:

The difference between placement and location

During our live event, questions about different placement options in an IEP (such as special day classes, push-in therapy services, and gen ed classrooms with modifications) came up in the chat. Lillian A. asked, "Isn't it true that 'placement' doesn't really refer to a physical place or school? It's more about the type of program and services a student is receiving?"

Heather H. answered, "The service is not a place. They can bring the service to the child if it’s reasonable." Dr. Pelangka agreed: "Correct, location and placement are not synonymous. Goals and services drive placement!"

What does that mean? Listen to Dr. Pelangka's explanation in this clip about how placement and location are different aspects of an IEP and why parents should understand them:

If you missed the event or want to review what we learned, you can watch the full recording here. If you have questions about addressing IEP concerns with your school district, make sure to attend our next live event to ask your question in the chat and hear from our experts and fellow parents! Keep an eye on our Facebook page to learn more.



An "appropriate" education is subjective

How to recognize violations of FAPE

The difference between placement and location

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Brittany OlsenUndivided Editor

An editor and cartoonist who loves using words and images to simplify and share ideas. She has ten years of experience as a copy editor and lives near Portland, Oregon. She often spends her free time going on nature walks with her dog or trying new bread recipes.

Reviewed by

Lindsay Crain, Undivided Head of Content and Community
Meghan O'Dell, Undivided Writer and Editor


Dr. Sarah Pelangka, Special Education Advocate, BCBA-D, and owner of KnowIEPs

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