Special Education Related Services

As a teacher, related service providers are life savers. They have unique expertise that you can draw on to better support your students-- and they should be an active member of your team, not just someone who drops in at IEPs!

How to Maximize Student Supports with Related Services

In plain terms, related services include all of the other staff besides the special education teacher who can support a student at school and services, like transportation, that a student might need to access the services.

According to IDEIA, related services means:

(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 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.

The procedure for qualifying is different for each related service. Almost all related services, however, require a formal assessment plan. If you think a student might benefit from a related service, reach out to the related service provider! They almost always have a screening process they use that they can share with you. Based on the screening, they can suggest supports you might want to use or, if they think it is warranted, recommend full assessment.

  • (1) Audiology 
    • This includes identification of hearing difficulties and in school supports for them, including group sessions and support for teachers
  • “(2) Counseling services means services provided by qualified social workers, psychologists, guidance counselors, or other qualified personnel.”
    • This includes sessions with guidance counselors or therapy. All are part of related services.
  • (4) Interpreting services 
    • This is interpretation for students who are Deaf or Deaf-Blind
  • (6) Occupational therapy
    • At schools, OTs often work on fine motor skills (tying shoes, zippers, handwriting), sensory regulation, and self-regulation skills.
  • (7) Orientation and mobility services
    • These are special supports for students who are vision impaired or Blind
  • (8) (i) Parent counseling and training
    • This is how the law defines this “means assisting parents in understanding the special needs of their child; (ii) Providing parents with information about child development; and (iii) Helping parents to acquire the necessary skills that will allow them to support the implementation of their child’s IEP or IFSP.”
    • This is a RELATED SERVICE and can be put on an IEP! Just FYI!
  • (9) Physical therapy 
    • Typically, PTs at school work on gross motor issues like going up and down stairs.
  • (10) Psychological services
    • This includes working with staff members “in planning school programs to meet the special educational needs of children” and “planning and managing a program of psychological services, including psychological counseling for children and parents; and(vi) Assisting in developing positive behavioral intervention strategies.”
    • Many schools just use school psychologists to do assessments but the law says that they can meet with individual students, help solve behavior challenges, and support families and teachers.
  • (12) Rehabilitation counseling services
    • This is career counseling and transition support for students after K-12 ends.
  • (13) School health services and school nurse services 
    • This includes nursing support– for example, a student with diabetes might need weekly nursing hours to monitor blood sugar levels.
  • (14) Social work services in schools
    • According to the law, this means, “(i) Preparing a social or developmental history on a child with a disability; (ii) Group and individual counseling with the child and family;(iii) Working in partnership with parents and others on those problems in a child’s living situation (home, school, and community) that affect the child’s adjustment in school; (iv) Mobilizing school and community resources to enable the child to learn as effectively as possible in his or her educational program; and (v) Assisting in developing positive behavioral intervention strategies.”
    • Note that this means a social worker can help with behaviors, support the family, and provide comprehensive supports to student AS PART OF AN IEP
  • (15) Speech-language pathology services 
    • SLPs in schools often work on expressive and receptive language as well as social skills. They are also the experts on technology for communication. 
  • (16) Transportation 
Note that assistive technology is often part of the package students receive. The law says that, “Each public agency must ensure that assistive technology devices or assistive technology services, or both, as those terms are defined in §§300.5 and 300.6, respectively, are made available to a child with a disability if required” as part of either their special education services or their related services.

The list of related services above is long for a reason– it often takes a village to meet the needs of a student with disabilities! Here are some ways to maximize the impact of related services:

  • Use screenings. If you even think a student might benefit from a related service, find a provider and ask for a screening. If nothing else, you will get some good tips and resources for supporting the student.
  • Don’t let the provider be a stranger. Some providers are great. Some only appear at IEPs or for once a year consultations. Reach out to them. The law says that they are a part of the IEP team. That means that they have to talk to you to help you problem solve and to figure out how to meet a student’s needs.
  • Combine their goals with yours. Don’t write a child a million goals! Work with the providers to integrate your goals so that you are all pulling together for a student.
  • Ask them questions. Providers are busy and often overwhelmed (sound familiar?) so you need to be proactive. Ask them questions if a student is having challenges in any area that they have expertise on. Stop reinventing the wheel and reach out to them!
  • Build a team. Providers often work in isolation from each other. If a student has a large team, get them to talk. You need a shared vision and shared tools to help a student if you want them to progress. 
  • If there are a lot of providers, allocate more time for the IEP. Just saying. I had one provider talk for twenty minutes once without pausing. And the student had a lot of providers.