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.]
What are related services?
In general, the final regulations for IDEA '97 define the term related services as "transportation and such developmental, corrective, and other supportive services as are required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education..." [Section 300.24(a)]. The following are included within the definition of related services:
With the exception of "early identification and assessment of disabilities in children," each of these services will be discussed in this News Digest. It is important to know that the definition of related services contained within IDEA '97's regulations goes on to define these individual terms more specifically. This information will be provided in Part II of this News Digest.
is eligible for related services?
Under IDEA '97, a student must need special education to be considered eligible for related services (unless the related service needed by the child is considered special education rather than a related service under State standards) [Section 300.7(a)(2)(ii)]. A child must have a full and individual evaluation to determine:
For the purposes of this publication on related services, however, it is useful to know that the law requires that a child be assessed in all areas related to his or her suspected disability. This includes, if appropriate, evaluating the child's:
A variety of assessment tools and strategies must be used to gather relevant functional and developmental information about the child [Section 300.532(b)]. The 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 [Section 300.532(h)].
the evaluation shows that the child does, indeed, have a disability
and that, because of that disability, he or she needs special education
and related services, then he or she meets the criteria for special
education and related services.
How do people know what related services a child needs?
The evaluation process is intended to provide decision makers with the information they need to determine: (a) if the student has a disability and needs special education and related services, and, if so, (b) an appropriate educational program for the student. It also allows them to identify the related services a student will need.
Following the child's evaluation and the determination that he or she is eligible for special education and related services, a team of individuals called the IEP team---which includes the parents and, where appropriate, the student---sits down and writes an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for the student. The IEP team looks carefully at the evaluation results, which show the child's areas of strength and need. The team decides what measurable annual goals (including benchmarks or short-term objectives), among other things, are appropriate for the child. Part of developing the IEP also includes specifying "the special education and related services and supplementary aids and services 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" for the child:
Thus, based on the evaluation results, the IEP team discusses, decides upon, and specifies the related services that a child needs in order to benefit from special education. Making decisions about how often a related service will be provided, and where and by whom is also a function of the IEP team.
is important to recognize that each child with a disability may not
require all of the available types of related services.
is useful to note that IDEA '97 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. The IDEA regulations state 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 [Section
Once the IEP team has determined which related services are required to assist the student to benefit from his or her special education, these must be listed in the IEP. The IEP also must include a statement of measurable annual goals (including benchmarks or short-term objectives) related to:
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.
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.
Do the parents have to pay for the related services the 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 receive FAPE and have included them in the student's IEP.
Once a child has been evaluated and found eligible for special education and related services, the IEP team develops an individualized education program (IEP) for the child. This will include specifying the special education and related services that the child will receive as part of his or her free appropriate public education (FAPE). Beyond specifying the related services, however, is the delivery of the services. This section looks briefly at how school districts typically provide children with disabilities with related services.
Who provides related services?
Providers of related services in the schools typically include (but are not limited to) professionals such as: school counselors, school psychologists, school social workers, school health professionals, speech-language pathologists, and occupational and physical therapists. The training and credentialling of these professionals will vary from State to State.
IDEA requires that related services are provided by qualified personnel. However, neither the law nor the regulations specify the levels of training that an individual needs in order to be considered "qualified." It is the State that establishes what constitutes "suitable qualifications for personnel providing special education and related services" [Section 300.136(a)(1)(ii)]. This includes establishing the "highest entry-level academic degree needed for any State-approved or -recognized certification, licensing, registration, or other comparable requirements that apply to a profession or discipline" in which a person is providing special education and related services [Section 300.136(a)(2)].
The IDEA also permits, but does not require, the use of paraprofessionals and assistants who are appropriately trained and supervised to assist in the provision of special education and related services. The use of paraprofessionals and assistants is contingent upon State law, regulations, or written policy giving States the option of determining whether paraprofessionals and assistants can be used to assist in the provision of special education and related services, and, if so, to what extent their use would be permissible (U.S. Department of Education, 1999a, pp. 12561-12562).
Apart from the requirements of the IDEA '97 and standards of training that individual States establish as "suitable qualifications" for their various related services providers, a number of professional organizations exist and publish standards as well. These groups can be a valuable source of information to parents and professionals alike.
States may consider the recognized standards of professional organizations
in deciding what are "appropriate professional requirements in the State,"
there is nothing in the statute or the regulations that requires States
to do so (U.S. Department of Education, 1999a, p. 12560; see also Section
How are related services delivered?
A school district must ensure that all of the related services specified in the student's IEP are provided, including the amount specified. The district usually decides how the services listed in the IEP will be delivered to the student. For example, the district may provide the services through its own personnel resources, or it may contract with another public or private agency, which then provides the services. Contracted service providers must meet the same standards for credentialling and training as public agency service providers do.
Generally, there are two basic kinds of related services interventions offered by schools to meet the range of student needs. These are:
Direct services usually refers to hands-on, face-to-face interactions between the related services professional and the student. These interactions can take place in a variety of settings, such as the classroom, gym, health office, resource room, counseling office, or playground. Typically, the related service professional analyzes student responses and uses specific techniques to develop or improve particular skills. The professional should also:
Indirect services may involve teaching, consulting with, and/or directly supervising other personnel (including paraprofessionals and parents) so that they can carry out therapeutically-appropriate activities. For example, a school psychologist might train teachers and other educators how to implement a program included in a student's IEP to decrease the child's problem behaviors. Similarly, a physical therapist may serve as a consultant to a teacher and provide expertise to solve problems regarding a student's mobility through school (Dunn, 1991). Good practice is generally thought to include the following aspects:
One type of service intervention is not necessarily better than the other (American Occupational Therapy Association, 1999) as long as the safety of the student is not compromised. In most school systems student needs are addressed through a combination of direct and indirect services. The type of service provided depends upon the individual needs of the student and his or her educational goals. Decisions about direct or indirect service delivery, therefore, are made on an individual, case-by-case basis.
It is not uncommon for districts to employ certified or trained assistants---such
as a Physical Therapy Assistant, a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant,
or a Speech-Language Pathology Assistant---to assist in the delivery
of related services. In fact, in recent years there has been an increased
emphasis on team members (e.g., teacher, therapist, and family member)
delivering services under the supervision of an expert rather than only
having an expert deliver direct services to a child (American Occupational
Therapy Association, 1999).
Where are related services provided?
recent years, there has been a significant shift in where related
services are provided. Rather than providing services in a separate
room, as was the more common practice in years past, schools are emphasizing
providing some services to students in natural activities and environments.
Of course, there may be some services that need to be delivered in a separate setting such as a counseling room or office in order to assure confidentiality for the student and family. Such services may include individual and group counseling, parent counseling, and, frequently, consultation with staff and parents about individual students.
It is interesting to note that this shift in location accompanies
a lesser focus on the traditional medical model of related services
and greater attention given to an educational-results model. The medical
model, typically found within a hospital or clinical setting, focuses
on identifying and treating the particular illness, trauma, or deficit
in a clinical setting. The educational model stresses the importance
of the student's attaining IEP goals and objectives as well as addressing
the capabilities and challenges presented by the particular disability.
How are related services coordinated?
on the nature and type of related services to be provided, many professionals
may be involved with, or on behalf of, the student with a disability.
This may include one or more therapists, a special educator, a regular
educator, counselor, a school psychologist, social workers, the school
nurse or other health services staff, paraprofessionals, or the school
The IEP team may determine that it is highly desirable that related
services be delivered in educational settings through a team approach.
As mentioned above, related services are not isolated from the educational
program. Rather, they are related to the educational needs of students
and are intended to assist the child in benefitting from the educational
In order to ensure the integrated delivery of services, some school
systems use a case management approach in which a team leader coordinates
and oversees services on behalf of the student. In some schools, this
person might be the child's special education teacher. In other schools,
supervisory school district personnel may assume this responsibility.
How are related services funded?
State and local educational agencies are responsible for assuming the costs of public education, including the cost of special education and related services. Under IDEA '97, students with disabilities are entitled to a free appropriate public education (FAPE) and are entitled to receive these services at no cost to themselves or their families.
Part of the monies to finance special education and related services comes to States and local educational agencies (LEAs) through Federal funding of IDEA. What other funding sources are available to States and LEAs, besides the IDEA, to help cover the costs of special education and related services?
agreements or other arrangements
...otherwise obligated under Federal or State law, or assigned responsibility under State policy...to provide or pay for any services that are also considered special education or related services...that are necessary for ensuring FAPE to children with disabilities within the State... [Section 300.142(b)(1)]
This includes the State Medicaid agency and other public insurers of children with disabilities. A noneducational public agency, as described above, may not disqualify an eligible service for Medicaid reimbursement because that service is provided in a school context [Section 300.142(b)(1)(ii)].
In order to receive federal funds under IDEA, the State Education Agency must have in effect agreements or other mechanisms with such agencies in order to define the financial responsibility that each agency has for providing services to ensure FAPE to children with disabilities [Section 300.142(a)(1)]. Moreover, the financial responsibility of each noneducational public agency comes before the financial responsibility of the local educational agency (or the State agency responsible for developing the child's IEP) [Section 300.142(a)(1)].
IDEA '97 states that "nothing in this part relieves an insurer or similar
third party from an otherwise valid obligation to provide or to pay
for services provided to a child with a disability" [Section 300.301(b)].
Information Center for Children & Youth with Disabilities