What are related services for students with disabilities and how are they provided?

Page 3: Providing Related Services in Schools

teacher with a studentMore and more students with disabilities are educated in general education classrooms alongside their peers. Just as an IEP team would look at the least-restrictive environment (LRE) for special education services, they should do so for related services. IEPs should allow the student to have access to the general education curriculum and to be included with typical peers as much as possible. The main benefits of doing this are that the student:

  • Remains in the general education classroom longer
  • Practices functional skills in the general education classroom
  • Does not miss as much instruction
  • Is better prepared for inclusive environments both in and out of school
  • Might have higher expectations placed on him or her

Although the goal is to provide related services to the greatest possible extent in the least-restrictive environment, service delivery should be considered along a continuum that includes the services outlined in the boxes below.

Consultative/ collaborative services

General education and related services providers work together to meet the needs of the student with a disability. The student remains in the general education classroom.

Classroom-based services

All services are brought to the student in the classroom setting (e.g., general education, special education, resource). The therapist or service provider may work individually with the target student or with a small group that includes him or her.

Pull-out services

Student is taken out of the classroom to a different location (e.g., gym, library, hallway) to receive the related service.


Teacher with a studentOf course, some services are a better fit for one option than another. For example, it might be appropriate for a speech-language pathologist to provide services within the classroom environment, whereas it might prove necessary to pull a student out for a school health–related service such as nursing (e.g., catheterization). Service delivery models might change throughout the course of treatment depending on the needs of the student. For example, a model might start off by providing direct one-on-one services to teach a skill, but then switch to a consultative/ collaborative role in order to help a student generalize his or her skills within the classroom environment. Related services for a student are most effective when the responsibilities and the service do not belong solely to the related service provider. The magic is not what happens in a visit from a related service provider. Rather, what really makes a difference is the implementation of techniques or practices by those who are with the student every day as part of an ongoing routine.

Regardless of the service delivery option, it is essential that related services personnel be an integral part of the school environment or culture and be active participants in the educational activities of students with disabilities. By being an integral member of the school, related services providers can act as a resource to all educators and school personnel at the schools they serve. This can be challenging because school systems might have related services personnel who are:

  • School employees hired through the school system and assigned to a particular school
  • Itinerant therapists hired through the school system. These itinerant service providers might serve more than one school and travel between their assigned schools. This may mean they are at a school for a portion of every day, or on a routine schedule (e.g., every Monday and Wednesday).
  • Contractual personnel hired through a home health agency or a rehabilitation hospital to provide services for a school system
  • Self-employed therapists hired through their private practice

Because of the challenges inherent to the work of related service personnel (e.g., travel between schools, contracted positions), teachers should strive to keep related personnel abreast of any information pertinent to students they have in common. It is important for teachers and related service providers to communicate and keep each other informed about student progress.

For Your Information

Some teachers believe that related services are only beneficial for the student receiving them. However, when services are provided within the contexts of the classroom, the benefits can extend beyond the student with a disability. For example:

  • Students without disabilities can learn ways to support their peers with disabilities in the classroom (e.g., keeping aisles clear for a student who uses canes for mobility, providing wait time for a student with articulation difficulties to speak).
  • Teachers can learn to provide specific interventions or strategies that can help all students.

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