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children disabilities education term

Mainstreaming is the original term used for the requirement under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that children with disabilities be educated in the least restrictive environment (LRE). Under IDEA, states must assure that, to the maximum extent appropriate, children ages three to twenty-one who have disabilities have access to the general education curriculum and are educated with children without disabilities (for infants and toddlers, early intervention services must be provided in natural environments where age peers are typically found).

The term "mainstreaming" commonly refers to the integration of a child with a disability in regular education settings for part of the school day. As legal and social interpretations of IDEA have evolved, the term "mainstreaming" has been superceded by the term "inclusion," reflecting a new understanding of LRE that presumes full participation of children with disabilities in regular education settings while ensuring continuum of participation options based on a child's educational and social needs.


Accardo, Pasquale J., and Barbara Y. Whitman, eds. Dictionary of Developmental Disabilities Terminology. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes, 1996.

Erwin, Elizabeth J., ed. "The Promise and Challenge of Supporting All Children in Natural Environments." Putting Children First: Visions for a Brighter Future for Young Children and Their Families. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes, 1996.

Hocutt, Anne M. "Effectiveness of Special Education: Is Placement a Critical Factor?" The Future of Children vol. 6, no. 1 (1996):77-99.

Rogers, Joy. "The Inclusion Revolution." In Phi Delta Kappa Center for Evaluation, Development, and Research [web site]. Research Bulletin no. 11, May 1993. Available from http://www.pdkintl.org/edres/resbul11.htm: INTERNET.

Turnbull, H. Rutherford III, and Ann P. Turnbull. "Least Restrictive Appropriate Educational Placement." In Free Appropriate Public Education: The Law and Children with Disabilities. Denver: Love Publishing, 2000.

Donna M. Noyes-Grosser

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