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1.2: Special Education and Related Services

  • Page ID
    178782
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    Special education is instruction specifically designed to meet the individual needs of exceptional students. IDEA defines special education as instruction and related services specifically designed, at no cost to parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability, including instruction conducted in the classroom, the home, hospitals, institutions, and other settings and includes instruction in physical education.

    In addition to the general education classroom, special education may occur partially within the general education classroom, in a separate classroom for students with disabilities, or in a separate school that includes just students with disabilities. In addition, some students require residential facilities as well as home- or hospital-based instruction. However, special education should be provided in the least restrictive environment, which, whenever possible, is the general education classroom; and the student should participate in the general education curriculum with appropriate adaptations and modifications.

    Special education may be implemented by different professionals, including special education teachers specifically trained to support students with disabilities or a general education teacher who teaches in a classroom that includes children with and without disabilities. Special education teachers, specialists, and clinicians collaborate with the general education teacher to plan and assist in instruction.

    Related services enable a student with a disability to receive a free and appropriate public education. Related services are based on individual student needs and may include the following services.

    Early Identification and Assessment

    Early childhood screening and assessment is often provided by local health services to determine if a child is experiencing developmental or cognitive delays. Appropriate interventions can then be implemented to mediate the effects of an existing disability or reduce the risks associated with other conditions such as malnourishment or low birth weight.

    Social Work Services

    Social workers act as advocates for students with disabilities and their families. Social workers help students and their families access the community resources they need (e.g., housing, supplemental nutrition assistance, medical care) to ensure their health and safety.

    Speech–Language Services

    Speech and language pathologists work with students who have communication disorders. These clinicians perform assessments and evaluations, monitor student progress, and provide appropriate interventions.

    Audiology Services

    Audiologists are clinicians who assess the degree and type of hearing loss a student may be experiencing. Audiologists also fit, adjust, and maintain assistive listening devices such as hearing aids. In some cases, audiologists may provide counseling to students who have experienced hearing loss as well as make recommendations for adaptations and assistive technology that can aid students.

    Interpreting Services

    Interpreters work with students who use sign language to communicate. Interpreters accompany students to provide sign language interpretation to other educators, specialists, or clinicians who may not use sign language.

    Psychological Services

    School psychologists support student behavior, development, learning, and mental health. They perform psychological assessments and observe students in classroom settings to determine if a student is eligible for special education.

    Physical Therapy

    Physical therapists work with students with physical disabilities or health impairments to help restore function and improve mobility.

    Occupational Therapy

    Occupational therapists work with students with disabilities to improve and maintain skills needed for everyday activities (e.g., gross and fine motor skills). Occupational therapists also provide information for students who may have sensory needs such as sensitivity to light or sounds.

    School Counseling Services

    School counselors provide academic and career counseling. In addition, school counselors provide short-term individual and small group counseling. They support students with disabilities by helping them recognize their strengths and develop self-advocacy skills.

    Rehabilitation Counseling Services

    Rehabilitation counselors help students with disabilities transition from school to employment and independent living. Rehabilitation counselors can also assist schools in accommodating the individual needs of students.

    Orientation and Mobility Services

    Orientation and mobility specialists teach students with vision loss how to navigate within environments and from one environment to another. They assist students in traveling independently and can work with students on the use of canes, guide dogs, wheelchairs, and public transportation.

    School-Based Health Services

    Some students with health impairments or multiple disabilities require services such as tube feeding and catheterization. School nurses may provide these services or may train school staff to carry out such services when special medical knowledge and training is not required.

    Parent Training and Counseling Services

    Parent training and counseling services provide families with information about the special needs of their student, providing information about resources available to them to support their student’s progress.

    Therapeutic Recreational Services

    Therapeutic recreation focuses on leisure skills and includes assessing individuals’ leisure functioning, developing and implementing recreation programs in schools and community agencies, and working with others to implement leisure education.

    In Illinois, the law also provides for transportation as a related service. Transportation services ensure student access to an appropriate education. For example, a student with a physical disability may require a wheelchair lift. Other students may require transportation to a special education program located outside of their home school or district. In addition, while not included in the IDEA definition of non-academic services, students may also receive art and music therapy.

    Necessary related services are determined by the team responsible for developing a student’s individualized education program (IEP), an overall plan for the student’s education that IDEA requires and that this chapter discusses later.


    This page titled 1.2: Special Education and Related Services is shared under a CC BY 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Diana Zaleski (Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois (CARLI)) .