What Are Related Services in a Special Education IEP?

An Individualized Education Program (IEP) helps students do their best in school. It takes their needs into account so that they feel supported in their learning. Related services offered in an IEP can help a student make progress and meet educational goals.

This guide is perfect for anyone who wants to learn all about related services in a special education IEP. I’ve included what related services are, how to get them, and how they are beneficial. Then, I give an in-depth explanation of what types of related services parents and educators can expect.

What to Expect with Related Services

  • What Are IEP Related Services?
  • How Are Related Services Beneficial?
  • How Do I Know What Related Services My Student Needs?
  • What Do Related Services Include?

What Are IEP Related Services?

Related services in an IEP help a student benefit from their general education program. Usually, they’re offered as part of special education services. Other times, they might be the student’s entire special education service.

They’re not meant to function as the whole special education program, though. Rather, they should only offer what the student needs to benefit from their general education setting.

Related services give a student what they need to participate in their education to the fullest. In many cases, that goes beyond the classroom. They help the student to join after school activities and give them the tools they need to have a better educational experience.

Parents and caregivers don’t pay for related services. Related services are included in the student’s IEP through the school, and the school can’t charge parents for them. Students with disabilities must have the option for special education services in school, and related services are part of those.

Related services are different for every student. An IEP offers many options for related services based on the student’s specific needs.

How Are Related Services Beneficial?

Related services offer extra help to students who receive special education services. The services vary, so they’re tailored to the student’s needs. The main benefit to related services is to support the student’s success and well-being in school.

Without related services, some students struggle to keep up with their general education programs. When they get the necessary services through their IEP, they can participate along with their classmates. Related services also help them achieve their own academic goals, as well as the goals of the curriculum.

Related services give them the tools and support they need to thrive in their academic environment. As a result, they often feel better able to take part in other areas of school, like extracurricular activities. They then get a more well-rounded experience with their education, rather than limiting their learning to the classroom.

Students often benefit emotionally from related services. When they feel like they can achieve their goals and learn along with their classmates, they feel more positively toward school. That contributes to a positive experience with school and learning.

How Do I Know What Related Services My Student Needs?

When a student has an IEP, the IEP team will work with the appropriate professionals to evaluate and review the student’s needs. They’ll then decide what related services the student needs, if any.

When deciding if the student needs related services, the IEP team looks at whether the student is getting the most benefit possible from their IEP. If not, the team then reviews their evaluation to see what kind of related services can help the student benefit more from the services they already get with their IEP.

Not all students with an IEP need related services. If a student meets their goals and can participate in their education with the IEP alone, that’s great! If not, their team should consider which related services can help.

Each individual student is different, and the same related services won’t help everyone equally. That’s why it’s important for the IEP team to carefully review the student’s evaluation and work with the student, parents, and appropriate professionals to determine which ones work best.

What Do Related Services Include?

Because no two students have the exact same needs, there are a variety of related services available. The IEP team creates a plan that uses those most likely to benefit the student during their program. Below, I talk about several of these services and how they can help students learn.

Speech-Language and Audiology Services

Audiology services are provided for Deaf and Hard of Hearing children. After an evaluation to determine the range and type of hearing loss, the IEP team can then decide what types of services the student needs. Some of those services include:

  • Auditory training
  • Speech reading
  • Language habilitation
  • Speech conservation
  • Programs for hearing loss prevention
  • Hearing aid selection and fitting

Many schools offer audiology screenings, but those that don’t can refer students to a clinic for a hearing test. The test allows the IEP team to help the student get the services they need to excel in school.

Psychological Services

Psychological services start with evaluating what type of mental health support the student needs. When a student receives these services, they’ll have specific psychological tests done according to their needs, which are then assessed to determine what services they require.

The IEP team interprets the information from the assessments into learning-related behaviors. They then consult with other staff and professionals to create a psychological service program for the student.

The goal of psychological services is mainly to create positive behavioral strategies that the student can use in the educational setting. Psychological services include everything from assessment and intervention to program management and parent support programs.

Counseling services are part of psychological services, but they’re more specific than that. These services are provided by guidance counselors, social workers, psychologists, and other qualified mental health professionals.

Counseling can help students develop self-awareness and skills related to responsibility, decision-making, and personal health. Counselors can also help students plan for the future and develop a more positive attitude, especially when it comes to recognizing and using their strengths to meet their goals.

Interpreting Services

Interpreting services apply for deaf, hard of hearing, and deaf-blind students. These services are often crucial in allowing these students to access classroom instruction. The method of interpretation varies, depending on the student’s needs and can include:

  • Oral transliteration
  • Cued language transliteration
  • Sign language and interpreting
  • Transcription

Some students require more specialized interpreting. In those cases, the IEP team will come up with a program that works for the student.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy looks different for every student who needs it. The program depends on the student’s disability and how it impacts their learning.

The student’s physical therapy program addresses posture and mobility, as well as muscle strength. It can help them move better in school and train their body to adapt to its environment.

Students might require physical therapy for many reasons. Some need it as a preventative or precaution if they have a disability that affects their mobility. Others might have an injury or illness that requires physical therapy and interferes with their education.

The goal of physical therapy in all cases is to help students feel more comfortable and move better in their educational environment.

Orientation and Mobility Services

Orientation and mobility services help blind or visually impaired students learn their way around their educational environment. They teach them to use their other senses to orient themselves in their space, whether they’re at home, at school, or in an unfamiliar environment.

These services work with the student to help them use a long cane, service animal, and other mobility resources to move throughout their space safely. They help the student use the level of vision they may have to travel in their environment. They also help them use other aids to move about as needed.

Medical and School Health Services

Not all medical services are covered under related services. Medical services refer specifically to those related to the student’s disability and IEP needs.

Some medical services are used only for diagnostic and evaluation purposes, and all must be given by a licensed physician. In this case, they only determine a student’s disability so that the IEP team can then work to create a program for the student’s education.

School health services work a little differently. They exist to help students manage their disability at school. A qualified school nurse administers these services, which can include:

  • Managing chronic illness
  • Giving medications
  • Safety planning
  • Special feedings
  • Suctioning
  • Preventing injury with appropriate care
  • Other procedures that require professional administration

Social Work Services

When problems at home affect the student’s school performance, an IEP might include social work services. A qualified social worker can help students develop positive behaviors. Social work services as part of an IEP often include parents or guardians, too.

Social work services offer both group and individual counseling for the student and their family. A qualified professional social worker works with parents to improve a student’s home situation to benefit their school performance and attitude. It can also include positive behavioral intervention for the student to develop more productive behaviors.


I hope this guide helped give you the information you need to understand and make the most of related services in a special education IEP! Leave a comment below if you have questions or thoughts, and feel free to send me an email! I’d love to hear from you!

About the author

Emily Cummings

I am a mom of two crazy, amazing, independent, little feminists. They bring so much light to my life and a lot less sleep. Since becoming a mother and increasingly in the last year, I have witnessed parents struggling to connect with their child's special education team with no success. I have become more aware of the gaps in our public school system and how parents may benefit from empowerment and advocacy tools.

My work experiences range from a juvenile detention center to an autism specialist in the Issaquah School District and a special education teacher in a self-contained program in the Lake Washington School District. My master's in teaching focused on special education and behavioral disorders from Seattle Pacific University. I completed my BCBA coursework from Montana State University.

Want to get in touch?

I'm happy to help however I can. Email me at hello at behaviorist .com.

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