School-Based Occupational Therapy Using LRE

February 25th, 2020 | Posted by bbarr in Education Services

Isn’t it funny how a school-based OT can know specific concepts that are totally unfamiliar to a clinic-based OT? Even if you’ve been an occupational therapist for years, you might have never heard of an LRE. If you’re interested in being a school-based OT, though, it’s an important term to know. Find out what LRE stands for and how to use embedded/integrated services in school-based OT.

What is a Least Restrictive Environment?

LRE stands for Least Restrictive Environment. Passed in 1975, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (or IDEA) says that students who get special education should learn in the least restrictive environment (LRE) possible. That means that, whenever possible, students should learn alongside their peers who receive general education. The key thing is what’s appropriate — kids who can be included in general education without disrupting their education should absolutely be in the classroom with their peers. Which means that, as an OT, part of your job is helping your students learn and live alongside other kids as seamlessly as possible.

LRE Guidelines for School-Based OTs

The term “least restrictive environment” is open to a lot of interpretation: by you, by the school, and by the child’s parents. You should absolutely cover what an appropriate treatment plan entails in your IEP. To make sure everyone is on the same page, give examples of what a LRE will look like for your student from day-to-day with different activities and subjects. Be sure to discuss what the term LRE means to parents who are unfamiliar with the IDEA guidelines. 

Get Creative with How You Teach

Learning in a LRE may present a few challenges for some students. What some OTs love most is the ability to be creative! As a school-based OT, there are infinite ways to adapt your treatment plans to make them fun and engaging for your students. Here are some ways you can help your students in an environment with kids of all backgrounds.

  • Help students with sensory processing. Sometimes transitioning from one classroom to another is difficult. Help students move between classrooms more easily by removing distracting thoughts. One way is mindful walking: putting one foot in front of the other. Or try animal walks: acting like a different animal every day. 
  • Encourage self-regulation. Talk about appropriate behaviors and reactions to things. If another student takes a tool or toy that your student wanted, you can help them manage their emotions and respond without acting out.
  • See where students thrive with minimal assistance. Where is your student doing great all by themselves? Where could they benefit from some embedded or integrated help? There are multiple areas in a school day, and each student is unique. You get to help improve their performance in learning environments throughout the school — like playgrounds, classrooms, lunchrooms, bathrooms). 

School-based occupational therapists help kids achieve goals essential for day-to-day living. Interested in finding out more about school-based opportunities? See all available OT positions here!

By Aubrey Schieuer

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