Related services for kids who learn and think differently

A child climbing a set of stairs in a physical therapy room with an adult standing nearby.

At a glance

  • Related services help kids meet educational goals, but these services aren’t necessarily specialized instruction.

  • Related services are typically part of a child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP).

  • Some kids receive related services through a 504 plan.

Does your child participate in a social skills group at school? Maybe your child goes for speech-language therapy once a week. Or perhaps the teacher works with an occupational therapist to find ways to improve your child’s writing skills. These are all ways of benefiting from related services.

Learn more about these types of services and how kids who learn and think differently get them.

Related services are most often part of an IEP. Kids usually get them along with some sort of specialized instruction, as part of special education. But in some schools, they are the special instruction. That may happen when a child doesn’t get any other services.

The main goal of these services isn’t to offer special education. It’s to help kids benefit from general education. They help make it easier for kids to participate in class and in afterschool activities.

For some kids, that might mean transportation services. For others, it’s the help the classroom teacher gets from a professional to create and use a behavior plan.

Often, related services go hand in hand with special education. But some kids might only need the related service.

Different states and school districts deal with this in different ways. The federal law says states can decide to allow related services to be the only form of special education a child gets. In that case, the related service is a child’s specialized instruction.

There may be other cases where kids don’t qualify for special education. But they can still get related services under . This might happen when a child’s challenges don’t have an effect on learning.

Here’s an example. A child with dyspraxia may need occupational therapy to help with motor planning. But this child doesn’t need academic help. So occupational therapy may be provided under a 504 plan instead of an IEP.

Related services are as varied and individual as the kids who use them. The federal special education law, , lists the following as possible related services:

  • Speech-language and audiology services

  • Interpreting services

  • Psychological services

  • Occupational and

  • Recreation, including therapeutic recreation

  • Early identification and evaluation of disabilities in children

  • Counseling services, including rehabilitation counseling

  • Orientation and mobility

  • Medical services (but only for diagnostic or evaluation purposes, not for ongoing treatment)

  • School health and/or school nurse services

  • Social work services

  • Parent counseling and training

It’s important to know that if there’s a service your child needs and it’s not on the list, such as , IDEA says the team should consider it.

If you’re just getting started, learn more about the differences between IEPs and 504 plans. Discover more about supports and services and how your child can get them. And if you’re seeking special education for your child, learn how the process works.

Key takeaways

  • Speech-language, occupational, and physical therapy are all examples of related services.

  • IDEA names many types of related services, but a child’s team decides which services are necessary.

  • In some cases, related services are the only special education services a child might need.


Explore related topics

Read next