Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) is a requirement of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for all children, including preschool children with disabilities. Because providing preschool classes is not a requirement for local education agencies, finding natural environments for preschool-aged children with disabilities to receive special education services can be a challenge for school districts.
Some possible solutions to this challenge include partnerships with Title I Prekindergarten programs, Head Start, and community-based childcare facilities. Title I programs are open to students who meet the income guidelines for eligibility (students with disabilities who do not qualify can also be included if they do not take away a slot from an eligible student). Head Start programs have a mandate that 10% of the students they serve must be students with disabilities. Community-based childcare centers can enter into agreements with local school districts in which training, personnel, and equipment can be exchanged for slots and/or tuition for children with disabilities.
For more information about possible solutions or options for providing services to preschoolers with disabilities in the least restrictive environment, please review the Preschool LRE Environments/Settings Document (pdf).