When and How to Include ‘Related Services’ in an IEP

Incorporating Related Services in IEP Planning

When and How to Include ‘Related Services’ in an IEP

Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) are key documents designed to cater to the unique needs of each student with disabilities.

While the core of an IEP typically revolves around academic goals and accommodations, ‘related services’ play an equally important role in ensuring holistic support for students.

This guide explains the significance of related services in an IEP and outlines the factors educators should consider when incorporating them.

IEP refers to a range of supportive interventions and resources designed to address the unique needs of students with disabilities.

Mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), these services aim to supplement a student's educational experience and facilitate their access to and participation in the program.

Thus, each ‘related service’ aims to promote the student’s overall success and inclusion in the educational environment.

Some examples of related services commonly included in an IEP are:

i. Speech-Language Therapy

This service focuses on improving communication skills for students with speech or language disorders, including speech articulation, language comprehension, and social communication.

ii. Occupational Therapy (OT)

OT targets enhancing fine motor skills, sensory processing, and activities of daily living; it helps students with disabilities develop the necessary skills to participate more effectively in classroom activities and daily tasks.

iii. Physical Therapy (PT)

PT aims to improve gross motor skills, mobility, and physical independence for students with mobility impairments or other physical disabilities; it helps ensure students can navigate their educational environment safely.

iv. Counseling Services

Counseling services provide emotional and behavioral support to help students manage social-emotional challenges, develop coping strategies, and foster positive relationships with peers and teachers.

v. Assistive Technology

Assistive technology devices and services are utilized to help students with disabilities access curriculum materials, communicate effectively, and participate in educational activities.

AT based related services may  include

  • Screen readers
  • Speech-to-text software
  • Adaptive computer input devices

What are the Factors to Consider When Including ‘Related Services’ in an IEP?

1. Assessment and Evaluation Data

Comprehensive assessments, such as standardized tests and observations, offer valuable insights into the student's strengths, challenges, and areas requiring support.

These assessments guide educators in making data-driven decisions. The decisions aim to incorporate services tailored to the student's unique profile.

For example, after conducting a thorough assessment, a special education team may include speech-language therapy in the student's IEP to address specific communication challenges identified during the evaluation process.

2. Educational Goals and Objectives

Related services should directly support the student's progress towards the overall goals outlined in the IEP, specifically focusing on academic, social, and functional milestones.

If a student's IEP goal includes improving social skills and independence, educators may incorporate related services such as counseling or occupational therapy to support achieving these objectives.

3. Access to Education

A thorough assessment of the impact of specific related services on the student's ability to access and benefit from their educational program is a must.

Consider how the absence or inclusion of these services may affect the student's learning and participation.

For instance, a student with dyslexia requires specialized reading instruction but lacks access to a reading specialist, which significantly hinders their ability to make academic progress.

4. Parent and Student Input

Collaboration with parents and students is essential in developing an effective IEP.

Seek input regarding the student's needs, preferences, and areas of concern to ensure a comprehensive and student-centered approach to providing related services.

Adhere to legal mandates and regulatory guidelines governing the provision of related services under IDEA and special education law.

Ensure IEP compliance and equitable service access by familiarizing yourself with federal, state, and district policies.

6. Progress Monitoring and Adjustment

Establish mechanisms for ongoing IEP progress monitoring to evaluate  the efficacy of related services. This includes  regular check-ins with  students, teachers, parents and data tracking systems.

Periodically reassess the student's needs and response to interventions and adjust the IEP as necessary to facilitate continuous growth and improvement.

For instance, if a student's progress in speech-language therapy falls short of expectations, the IEP team may reconvene to modify goals or explore alternative interventions.

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