Delivering Related Services (page 2)
As was described in Part I, 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” [§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 [§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, 1999, 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. We have provided the contact information, including Web sites, for many of these professional associations at the end of this News Digest.
While 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, 1999, p. 12560; see also §300.136(b)(3)].
How are related services generally 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:
1. Direct Services. 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:
- monitor the student’s performance within the educational setting so that adjustments can be made to improve student performance, as needed, and
- consult with teachers and parents on an ongoing basis, so that relevant strategies can be carried out through indirect means (see below) at other times.
2. Indirect Services. 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:
- The intervention procedure is designed by the related service professional (with IEP team input) for an individual student.
- The related service professional has regular opportunities to interact with the student.
- The related service professional provides ongoing training, monitoring, supervision, procedural evaluation, and support to staff members and parents.
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 (Smith, 1990). 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). As stated previously, the final regulations for IDEA ‘97 make clear that nothing in the statute or regulations prohibits the use of paraprofessionals and assistants who are appropriately trained and supervised to assist in the provision of special education and related services, in accordance with State law, regulations, or written policy [§300.136(f)].
Where are related services provided?
In 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. Today it is not unusual to find speechlanguage services integrated into instructional activities in the regular education classroom, or occupational or physical therapy provided during physical education classes in gyms. As an example, asthma medication or glucose monitoring (as a school health service) may be done in the classroom or wherever the student with a disability happens to be. Thus, services may be delivered in a regular education class, a special education class, a gym, a therapy room, or in other locations in the school, home, or community.
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 (Hanft & Striffler, 1995).
Reprinted with the permission of the National Dissemination Center.
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