An Overview of Related Services Under IDEA (page 4)
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments of 1997 (IDEA '97) mandates that "...all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education [FAPE] that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for employment and independent living" [Section 601(d)(1)(A)]. In accordance with the IDEA '97 and other federal laws, more than 6.1 million children with disabilities (ages 3 through 21) across the nation received special education and related services in the 1998-99 school year (U.S. Department of Education, 2000). What, precisely, are related services, and why are they an important part of educating children with disabilities? Who is eligible for related services, and how are related services delivered? This publication briefly examines the answers to these and other questions by looking at:
- the related services listed in the Federal regulations;
- how students become eligible for related services;
- how related services are typically obtained for students;
- additional related services not listed specifically in the Federal regulations (i.e., artistic/cultural programs) but that can assist a student in benefiting from special education;
- how related services are typically delivered, coordinated, and funded; and
- related services under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
A list of organizations that typically can provide more information about the various related services concludes this publication.
Part I. An Overview of Related Services under IDEA
Several important federal laws address the educational needs of children and youth with disabilities. One such law, passed in 1975, is the Education of All Handicapped Children Act, otherwise known as EHA or Public Law (P.L.) 94-142. This law mandated that special education and related services be made available to all eligible schoolaged children and youth with disabilities. Since the time of EHA's enactment, Federal funds have been provided to help State and local educational agencies provide special education and related services to children with disabilities.
In 1990, as part of its reauthorization by Congress, the EHA was renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA (P.L. 101-476). The law was again amended in June 1997 as P.L. 105-17. The 1997 law is called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act—referred to hereafter as IDEA '97.
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..." [§300.24(a)]. The following are included within the definition of related services:
- speech-language pathology and audiology 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;
- social work services in schools;
- parent counseling and training; and
- transportation. [§300.24(a)].
With the exception of "early identification and assessment of disabilities in children," each of these services will be discussed in this 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.
Who 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) [§300.7(a) (2)(ii)]. A child must have a full and individual evaluation to determine:
- if he or she has a disability as defined under IDEA '97, and
- if, because of that disability, he or she needs special education and related services.
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. While looking in detail at evaluation is beyond the scope of this Digest Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY) offers several publications that discuss what is involved when a child is evaluated. We refer you to Your Child's Evaluation (BP1), Questions Often Asked by Parents About Special Education Services Questions and Answers about IDEA (ND21). All of these publications are available on our Web site (www.nichcy.org) in English and in Spanish or by contacting NICHCY directly. This includes, if appropriate, evaluating the child's:
- social and emotional status,
- general intelligence,
- academic performance,
- communicative status, and
- motor abilities.[§300.532(g)]
A variety of assessment tools and strategies must be used to gather relevant functional and developmental information about the child §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 [§300.532(h)].
If 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:
- to advance appropriately toward attaining the annual goals,
- to be involved and progress in the general curriculum (that is, the curriculum used by nondisabled students),
- to participate in extracurricular and other nonacademic activities, and
- to be educated and participate with other children with disabilities and nondisabled children. [§300.347(a)(3)]
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. [More information about IEP development is available in NICHCY's publications Questions(LG1); Questions(ND21); and Often Asked by Parents About Special Education Services and Answers about IDEA Individualized Education Programs (LG2).]
It is important to recognize that each child with a disability may not require all of the available types of related services. Moreover, as Attachment 1 accompanying the regulations to IDEA '97 points out, "As under prior law, the list of related services is not exhaustive and may include other developmental, corrective, or supportive services (such as artistic and cultural programs, art, music, and dance therapy) if they are required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education in order for the child to receive FAPE" (U.S. Department of Education, 1999, p. 12548). 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 '97. Further, "if it is determined through the [IDEA's] evaluation and IEP requirements that a child with a disability requires a particular supportive service in order to receive FAPE, regardless of whether that service is included in these [Federal] regulations, that service can be considered a related service...and must be provided at no cost to the parents" (p. 12548).
It 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. IDEA '97 final 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 [§300.344(a)(6)]. Appendix A of the regulations specifically states (at Question 30) that, if a child with a disability has an identified need for related services, the public agency responsible for the child's education should ensure that a qualified provider of that service either:
- attends the IEP meeting, or
- provides a written recommendation concerning the nature, frequency, and amount of service to be provided to the child. (U.S. Department of Education, 1999, p. 12478)
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 shortterm objectives) related to:
- meeting the child's needs that result from his or her disability to enable the child to be involved in and progress in the general curriculum (or for preschool children, as appropriate, to participate in appropriate activities), and
- meeting each of the child's other educational needs that result from the disability. [§300.347(a)(2)]
In addition to this key information, the IEP must also specify with respect to each service:
- when the service will begin; and
- the anticipated frequency (how often), location (where), and duration [§300.347(a)(6)]
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.
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.
Reprinted with the permission of the National Dissemination Center.
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