Continuum of Services

available in IEP

IDEA Regulation states:

(a)Each public agency must ensure that a continuum of alternative placements is available to meet the needs of children with disabilities for special education and related services.

(b)The continuum required in paragraph (a) of this section must:

  • (1) Include the alternative placements listed in the definition of special education under Sec. 300.38 (instruction in regular classes, special classes, special schools, home instruction, and instruction in hospitals and institutions); and

  • (2) Make provision for supplementary services (such as resource room or itinerant instruction) to be provided in conjunction with regular class placement.

Definition of continuum of services available in an IEP

The concept of delivering a customized special education to meet the needs of all children with disabilities in an appropriate educational setting.

Placing exceptional students in the least restrictive environment must be considered when determining which placement options meets the individual needs of each student.

Examples of Continuum of Services with Descriptors

These services are listed from the Least Restrictive Environment to the Most Restrictive Environment.

Least Restrictive Environment Defined

Least Restrictive Environment or (LRE): "A relative concept individually determined for each student; principle that each pupil should be educated, to the maximum extent appropriate, with classmates who are typical" (Gargiulo, 2015, pp. 67).

Professionals who may provide services within each continuum

The educational placement of child with special needs is an IEP team decision. It is not the parent or school’s choice solely. It is a discussion in which the following parties should discuss.

  • Parents/Family (if appropriate)
  • Special Education teacher
  • General Education teacher
  • Related service personnel
  • Guidance counselor
  • Occupational therapist
  • Psychologist
  • Doctor/Nurse
  • Residential teacher
  • Social Worker

Percentage of students with disabilities in each education setting:

  • Regular Public Day School - 94.9%
    • General Education more than 80% of the day - 61.1%
    • General Education between 40 and 79% of the day - 19.8%
    • General Education less than 40% of the day - 14%
  • Separate School for Students with Disabilities - 3%
  • Homebound/Hospital Placement - .4%
  • Separate Residential Facility - .3%


Gargiulo, R. M. (2015). Special Education in Contemporary Society: An Introduction to Exceptionality. Fifth Edition. SAGE Publications, Inc.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act . Retrieved June 4, 2015 from:

U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2015). The Digest of Education Statistics, 2013 (NCES 2015-011), Table 204.60.