When children have a visual impairment or other disability, providing them with special education services—such as instruction from a teacher of visually impaired students—often is not sufficient. They may need additional support or services before they can truly benefit from the education they are receiving. Such additional services might include orientation and mobility (O&M) training so that the student can get around to his or her classes in school, or physical therapy to help a child with physical disabilities maintain a position in which he or she can see the chalk board.

The term “related services” describes a variety of such supportive educational services, which may be provided to students as part of their special education program. As defined in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the federal law that governs special education services for children with disabilities, related services are those required to help your child benefit from her special education. It is important for parents to be aware that these services are available at no cost, based on your child’s educational needs.

The following are the related services specifically mentioned in IDEA (related services are the full range of services available to children classified as eligible to receive them):

  • Audiology services: Services to identify and diagnose children with hearing loss and determine what measures need to be taken to help the child participate in learning (such as hearing aids and auditory training).
  • Counseling services: Services provided by qualified personnel such as social workers, psychologists, and guidance counselors to help a child with problems in school or in planning for the future.
  • Early identification and assessment of disabilities in children: Services related to the requirement for each state to implement a formal plan to identify children with disabilities as early as possible, usually through a preschool screening program.
  • Medical services for diagnostic or evaluation purposes: Services delivered by a physician to determine the nature of a child’s disability and its implications for his or her special education program.
  • Occupational therapy: Services to help children develop fine motor coordination and daily living skills necessary to their success in school and the community.
  • Orientation and mobility (O&M) services: Services and training provided by qualified O&M specialists who teach students who are visually impaired techniques for moving about safely and independently.
  • Parent counseling and training: Services to help families understand their child’s special needs and how they may relate to typical child development.
  • Physical therapy: Services to develop and promote a child’s gross and total body movements, muscle tone, coordination, and balance and equilibrium as he or she progresses through the sequence of childhood development.
  • Psychological services: Services involved in conducting assessments, making interpretations and recommendations based on those assessments, working with students individually or in small groups, and providing consultation to teachers, other school personnel, and parents.
  • Recreation, including therapeutic recreation: Services involved in evaluating a child’s functioning during leisure time and providing programs that encourage appropriate body movement, such as running on a track, either in school or through community agencies.
  • Rehabilitation counseling: Services and training relating to advocating for oneself and to pursuing careers and employment.
  • School health services: Services provided by a school nurse or other qualified staff, which may include vision and hearing screenings and maintenance of current medical records.
  • Social work services in schools: Services aimed at helping teachers and families locate appropriate community resources and implement effective educational programs.
  • Speech-language pathology: Services concerned with the identification and diagnosis of speech and language difficulties and with providing therapy to the child as well as consultation to school personnel.
  • Transportation: Services supporting travel from home to school as well as any specialized equipment necessary to transport a child safely, such as adapted buses, lifts, and ramps.

This list is not necessarily an exhaustive one. Related services may include other “developmental, corrective, or supportive services,” such as artistic and cultural programs; art, music, and dance therapy; nutrition services; or independent living services to help your child learn to take care of her own everyday needs.