Making Related Services Decisions in the IEP

By Daniel Parker, SPED Assistant Director, Tim Peerenboom, SSPW School Psychology Consultant and Dawn Merth-Johnson, Speech or Language Impairment and Assistive Technology Consultant

Related services are transportation and such developmental, corrective, and other supportive services required to help a student with a disability benefit from their special education [34 C.F.R §300.34 and Wis. Stat. §115.76(14)]. Related services help students with disabilities benefit from their special education by providing intervention and support in areas of disability-related educational need.

Students do not “qualify” for related services based on any specific assessment scores or set criteria.  Instead, related service decisions are based on whether the individualized education program (IEP) team feels a related service is required for the student to benefit from special education.  Related service decisions are also not based on disability category criteria or related service provider role or title.  

IEP teams make decisions about related services based on an individual student’s disability-related needs through the College and Career Ready IEP process. When a particular related service is considered during IEP development or review, an individual who is licensed to provide that related service and has knowledge and expertise in the area of student need should be included on the IEP.  Related service decisions should not be based solely on a diagnosis or recommendation from a medical or clinical provider in the absence of a link to an educational need.

Local Educational Agency (LEA) Representatives should assist the IEP team in ensuring that related services align to disability-related needs and IEP goals during IEP team meeting.   Related services do not always need to be provided by the IEP team member who conducted assessments to identify a student’s disability-related needs.  Instead, the IEP team should consider whether addressing the disability-related need(s) requires the unique skilled services from a related services provider.  Finally, LEA representatives can help guide the IEP team discussion around determining related service needs using the following questions.

  • What are the disability-related needs and IEP goals that cannot be solely addressed through other IEP services? Is additional support needed to help a child with a disability to benefit from their special education? 

  • What is the least restrictive way to support the student within the regular education setting appropriate to the student’s age or grade? 

  • Will related service interventions improve the student’s access to their education and progress in age or grade level academic standards and functional performance?

  • Are there any program modifications or supports for school personnel such as task modification, staff coaching or training  from a related service provider that will  help meet the student's disability-related needs and make progress on IEP goals?

IEP team decisions about related services must ensure that any related service included in a student's IEP is necessary to support one or more of the student’s disability-related needs and, as appropriate, any related IEP goal(s).  LEA representatives need to have a good understanding of related services in order to ensure students' needs are being met.