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Special needs students require extra attention, and extra attention to detail when it comes to providing them with the best education. Their education needs to be tailored around their needs so that they can progress well, and learn the things they need to learn. The least restrictive environment is both a term, and an integral part of special-needs education. It is a setting in which students learn, made to accommodate students with particular needs in regards to the area in which they work.
The least restrictive environment is used not only to allow students with special needs to benefit from education, but also to allow them to benefit from it in an environment that is made to seem as 'normal' or 'authentic' as possible. In this sense, special needs students will not feel patronized and will enjoy the work and studying that they do.
When the proposal for allowing special needs students to work in a 'real' and 'authentic' environment, designed to fit their special needs also, was first introduced it seemed a little radical. But these days, quality education establishments, mental health experts and special needs teachers take the idea that least restrictive environment is effective for granted.
Residential treatment facilities and programs, special needs hospitals, and even therapeutic boarding schools tend not to use least restrictive environment as they focus primarily on allowing the individual to study to their best ability - and not become used to what is considered 'norm' outside of their own classroom, and treatment center for whatever kind of emotional treatment they might be currently undergoing.
The hard work that a correctional facility or treatment facility for emotional problems might be proven to have been a futile effort, when the individual leaves the highly restrictive environment and becomes subject to the original problems and 'weird' surroundings that caused whatever crisis they had in the first place. This is the importance of least restrictive environment when a student is studying in an emotional treatment facility.
If a young student leaves a treatment facility, they will obviously need to carry on working and studying at home. This means that if they have been subject to a restrictive working environment, they might find it incredibly difficult to get on with their work when they are at home - and receive an education of the same high level. Least restrictive environment allows students to study at a level that is comparative to at home, or at a regular school or educational institution. It does wonders for students with special needs, and allows them to integrate well.
Whilst restrictive measures might sometimes need to be put in place for the first part of behavioral and emotional treatment, it might mean that in the future the individual will have to receive some kind of treatment when they have left the facility. That is of course, unless least restrictive environments can be provided - and then the student will be able to easily integrate into a regular educational institution.