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FAQs: Related Services

[Note from Wrightslaw: This article is taken from "Related Services", a publication of the National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities (NICHCY). For more information about publications from NICHCY, please see info & links at end of this article.]

The IEP must contain a statement of the special education and related services and supplementary aids and services to be provided to the child, or on behalf of the child. We’ve split up the discussion of each of these important elements, because there is so much to say about each. This article focuses on related services.

IDEA's Exact Words

Let’s start with IDEA’s full requirement for specifying a child’s related services in his or her IEP. This appears at §300.320(a)(4) and stipulates that each child’s IEP must contain:

(4) A statement of the special education and related services and supplementary aids and services, based on peer-reviewed research to the extent practicable, to be provided to the child, or on behalf of the child, and a statement of the program modifications or supports for school personnel that will be provided to enable the child—

(i) To advance appropriately toward attaining the annual goals;

(ii) To be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum in accordance with paragraph (a)(1) of this section, and to participate in extracurricular and other nonacademic activities; and

(iii) To be educated and participate with other children with disabilities and nondisabled children in the activities described in this section… [§300.320(a)(4)]

We’ve bolded the part of IDEA’s regulation that specifically mentions related services, because it’s important to see the context in which this term is used. It is that context, and IDEA’s own definition of related services, that will guide how a child’s IEP team considers what related services the child needs and the detail with which the team specifies them in the IEP.

Related Services in Brief

Related services help children with disabilities benefit from their special education by providing extra help and support in needed areas, such as speaking or moving. Related services can include, but are not limited to, any of the following:

  • speech-language pathology and audiology services
  • interpreting services
  • psychological services
  • physical and occupational therapy
  • recreation, including therapeutic recreation
  • early identification and assessment of disabilities in children
  • counseling services, including rehabilitation counseling
  • orientation and mobility services
  • medical services for diagnostic or evaluation purposes
  • school health services and school nurse services
  • social work services in schools
  • parent counseling and training
  • transportation [Section 300.34]

Beginning with Evaluation

IDEA requires that a child be assessed in all areas related to his or her suspected disability. This evaluation must be sufficiently comprehensive so as to identify all of the child’s special education and related services needs, whether or not those needs are commonly linked to the disability category in which he or she has been classified.

  • health,
  • vision,
  • hearing,
  • social and emotional status,
  • general intelligence,
  • academic performance,
  • communicative status, and
  • motor abilities. [Section 300.304(c)]

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Determining What Related Services a Child Needs

It is the IEP team’s responsibility to review all of the evaluation information, to identify any related services the child needs, and to include them in the IEP. Goals can be written for a related service just as they are for other special education services. The IEP must also specify with respect to each service.

  • when the service will begin;
  • how often it will be provided and for what amount of time; and
  • where it will be provided. [§300.320(a)(7)]

Each child with a disability may not require all of the related services listed above. Furthermore, the list of related services is not exhaustive and may include other developmental, corrective, or supportive services if they are required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education. Examples include artistic and cultural programs, art, music, and dance therapy.

The IEP is a written commitment for the delivery of services to meet a student’s educational needs. A school district must ensure that all of the related services specified in the IEP, including the amount, are provided to a student.

Changes in the amount of services listed in the IEP cannot be made without holding another IEP meeting. However, if there is no change in the overall amount of service, some adjustments in the scheduling of services may be possible without the necessity of another IEP meeting.

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Related Services Personnel on the IEP Team

IDEA does not expressly require that the IEP team include related services personnel. However, if a particular related service is going to be discussed in an IEP meeting, it would be appropriate for such personnel to be included or otherwise involved in developing the IEP. IDEA states that, at the discretion of the parent or the public agency, “other individuals who have knowledge or special expertise regarding the child, including related services personnel as appropriate” may be part of a child’s IEP team.

Do Parents Have to Pay for the Related Services their Child Receives?

No. School districts may not charge parents of eligible students with disabilities for the costs of related services that have been included on the child’s IEP. Just as special and regular education must be provided to an eligible student with a disability at no cost to the parent or guardian, so, too, must related services when the IEP team has determined that such services are required in order for the child to benefit from his or her education.

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Related Services in Detail

To add detail to the “short story” above, let’s begin with the very first part of IDEA’s definition of related services at §300.34.

§300.34  Related services.

(a) General. Related services means transportation and such developmental, corrective, and other supportive services as are required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education, and includes….

This beginning represents the core of how IDEA defines related services. The term related services is typically spoken in the same breath as special education (similar to how “peas and carrots” and “ham and eggs” go together) and, when used in IDEA, will always have the same meaning, including the part of the definition we haven’t shown you yet, which picks up where the beginning leaves off…

…and includes speech-language pathology and audiology services, interpreting services, psychological services, physical and occupational therapy, recreation, including therapeutic recreation, early identification and assessment of disabilities in children, counseling services, including rehabilitation counseling, orientation and mobility services, and medical services for diagnostic or evaluation purposes. Related services also include school health services and school nurse services, social work services in schools, and parent counseling and training.

Clearly, the list of related services is extensive–and, as already mentioned, the list is not exhaustive. These are just the services that IDEA specifically mentions. As states respond to the requirements of federal law, many have legislated their own related service requirements, which may include services beyond those specified in IDEA.

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What's Excluded as a Related Service?

IDEA makes a specific exception to the list of related services: surgically implanted devices, including cochlear implants.

This exception is new with IDEA 2004 and shows the advance of time and technology. A relatively new technological development, the cochlear implant is a “small, complex electronic device that can help to provide a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or severely hard-of-hearing” (National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, 2006a). While an implant does not restore normal hearing, it does give the recipient “a useful representation of sounds in the environment and help him or her to understand speech” (Id.).

Cochlear implants are not the only surgically implanted devices. Others include: insulin pump, baclofen pump, pacemaker, G-tube, and vagus nerve stimulator device.

The exception. If a child has a surgically implanted device, the scope of the public agency’s responsibility to provide supportive related services in relation to that device is covered in IDEA’s provisions at §300.34(b), its exception. Public agencies are not responsible for optimizing these devices, maintaining them, or replacing them. Public agencies are responsible for “routine checking to determine if the external component of a surgically implanted device is turned on and working” (71 Fed. Reg. 46570) and for providing other types of services the child needs, as determined by the IEP team, including:

  • assistive technology (e.g., FM system);
  • proper classroom acoustical modifications;
  • educational support services (e.g., educational interpreters); and
  • receiving the related services (e.g., speech and language services) that are
  • necessary for the child to benefit from special education services. (Id.)

While public agencies are not responsible for mapping a cochlear implant, they do have  a role to play in providing services and supports to help children with cochlear implants. As the Department observes:

Particularly with younger children or children who have recently obtained implants, teachers and related services personnel frequently are the first to notice changes in the child’s perception of sounds that the child may be missing. This may manifest as a lack of attention or understanding on the part of the child or frustration in communicating. The changes may indicate a need for remapping, and we would expect that school personnel would communicate with the child’s parents about these issues. To the extent that adjustments to the  devices are required, a specially trained professional would provide the remapping, which is not considered the responsibility of the public agency. (71 Fed. Reg. at 46570-1)

In many ways, the Department points out, there is no substantive difference between serving a child with a cochlear implant in a school setting and serving a child with a hearing aid. A “public agency is responsible for the routine checking of the external components of a surgically implanted device in much the same manner as a public agency is responsible for the proper functioning of hearing aids” (71 Fed. Reg. at 46571). What distinguishes a service covered under the Act and one that is excluded is, in large measure, “the level of expertise required” (Id.). Maintaining and monitoring a surgically implanted device require the expertise of a licensed physician or an individual with specialized technical expertise beyond that typically available from school personnel. On the other hand:

Teachers and related services providers can be taught to first check the externally worn speech processor to make sure it is turned on, the volume and sensitivity settings are correct, and the cable is connected, in much the same manner as they are taught to make sure a hearing aid is properly functioning. To allow a child to sit in a classroom when the child’s hearing aid or cochlear implant is not functioning is to effectively exclude the child from receiving an appropriate education.  (Id.)

You’ll note that the exception in IDEA is carefully crafted to ensure that public agencies remain aware of, and responsible for, monitoring and maintaining “medical devices that are needed to maintain the health and safety of the child, including breathing, nutrition, or operation of other bodily functions, while the child is transported to and from school or is at school”[§300.34(b)(2)(ii)]. This clearly aligns with a public agency’s responsibility for the health-related services (see discussion of Medical Services and School Health Services and School Nurse Services further below).

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How are the Individual Services Defined?


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Revised: 08/29/14


National Information Center for Children & Youth with Disabilities

The National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities (NICHCY)
website will close on September 30, 2014.

You will find NICHCY publications and training curriculum on IDEA 2004 at the legacy resource Center for Parent Information and Resources’ Library at http://www.parentcenterhub.org/resources.

The new address of Related Services (in both English and Spanish) at the CPIR is:

http://www.parentcenterhub.org/repository/iep-relatedservices/

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