* The photo is a picture of my kiddo in occupational therapy many years ago.
As a special education advocate, I have worked with many families who are navigating the complex world of special education. One of the most critical components of a student's individualized education program (IEP) is related services. These services can be essential in supporting the unique needs of students with disabilities, so I want to take a moment to discuss this vital aspect of special education.
Not long ago, I was working with a family who had a child with ADHD. This student struggled with sensory integration, which made it difficult for them to focus in the classroom environment. The family had been fighting for years to get the school to provide occupational therapy, which they believed would help their child learn to manage their sensory needs. However, the school had denied their request repeatedly, stating that the student did not need occupational therapy. It wasn't until the parents reached out to me for help that we were able to get the school to implement occupational therapy as a related service on the student's IEP. With the additional support, the student was finally able to better manage their sensory needs and find accommodations that would work for them. It also provided support for the teacher in learning to support the student's processing; and once those needs were met the academic progress was amazing.
This story highlights the critical role that related services can play in a student's education. Related services refer to a range of support services that a student with disabilities may receive in order to achieve their individualized educational goals. These services are provided by trained professionals and aim to mitigate the impact of the student's disability on their learning.
Examples of related services in special education include but are not limited to:
Speech therapy: This service may be provided to students who struggle with articulation, communication, or language expression.
Occupational therapy: This service aims to help students develop skills for daily living, such as self-care, fine motor skills, or sensory processing.
Physical therapy: Students who have mobility issues or physical impairments may receive physical therapy to help them improve their strength, balance, or coordination.
Counseling services: Some students may need mental health counseling to address social, emotional, or behavioral challenges that may interfere with their academic progress.
Assistive technology: Students with disabilities may receive assistive technology, such as specialized software or devices, to help them access the curriculum.
It's important for parents to understand that related services are not optional in special education. These services are legally mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and must be included in an IEP if the student requires them to receive a free and appropriate public education (FAPE).
As an advocate, I often see schools resist providing appropriate related services to students, which can make it challenging for parents to ensure their child is receiving the support they need. Parents should know that they have the right to request related services as part of their child's IEP and that the school must provide them if they are necessary for the child's FAPE.
In conclusion, related services are a critical component of special education. These services can help students with disabilities succeed academically, socially, and emotionally. As a parent, it's essential to advocate for your child's needs and push for the inclusion of related services on their IEP. Remember, every child with a disability has the right to access these services, and it's the school's responsibility to provide them. Together, we can work to ensure that every student with a disability receives the support they need to achieve their full potential.
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