The difference between push-in and pull-out services

At your child’s IEP meeting, the IEP team (which includes you) has to make a number of decisions. For instance, the team has to agree on services and supports for your child. But there’s another step to consider after that. You have to decide if the services will be “push-in” or “pull-out.”

What does that mean, and what’s the difference between the two options? It’s not the services that are different — it’s the way your child receives them. This chart compares push-in and pull-out services side-by-side.


Push-in services

Pull-out services

What they are

Specialists work closely with students in the general education classroom. Instructional support, differentiated instruction, or related services are provided in the classroom.

Specialists work closely with students outside of the general education classroom. Instructional support or related services are provided in small groups or one-on-one in a separate setting.

How it works

Push-in services happen in the general education classroom. The general education teacher, special education teacher, and others (like speech therapists or occupational therapists) work collaboratively. This is called inclusive education.

The push-in provider brings the instruction and any necessary materials to the student. A reading specialist, for example, may come into the class to work with a student during language arts.

Pull-out services typically happen in a setting outside the general education classroom.

While the general education teacher is an important resource, she’s rarely involved in pull-out services. Instead, the specialist provides the instruction, and it doesn’t have to be integrated with the general education curriculum. It really depends on a student’s needs.

The student goes to the pull-out provider’s classroom to work one-on-one or in a small group setting.

How kids get them

Services can be provided through IEPs, response to intervention (RTI), informal supports, and other instructional interventions.

Services can be provided through IEPs, RTI, informal supports, and other instructional interventions.

Pros and cons


Students miss less instructional time because they’re not spending as much time moving between classrooms.

There’s less disruption to a student’s daily schedule.

There’s more direct interaction between all of a student’s providers.

Students get to learn and practice skills in the general education classroom, which keeps them in the least restrictive environment.


There are fewer opportunities for students to receive tailored and explicit instruction to help them gain skills they need to keep up with the curriculum.

Co-planning instruction and working around differences in teaching styles can create obstacles for teachers.

There are often more distractions for students in the general education classroom, which can be especially hard for students with attention issues like ADHD.


Students get more direct instruction that’s tailored to their unique needs.

There are typically fewer distractions for students outside the general education classroom.

Students have more personalized interaction with providers, which helps students build trust and gives them extra emotional support.

Teachers and specialists don’t have to spend as much time grounding a lesson for the entire classroom.


There’s less opportunity for specialists and teachers to collaborate and to determine whether pull-out instruction is helping students access the general education curriculum.

Students may feel “different” or uncomfortable because they have to leave the general classroom for services.

There can be more scheduling difficulties, so a student may miss other subjects or specials like art, music, or PE.

Read what a mom wants teachers to know about her (special education inclusion) child. And hear from another mom who shares an experience her son had with pull-out services.


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