What Kinds of Special Education Services are Available?


The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) outlines the kinds of services and supports children with disabilities may be eligible to receive. The services your child actually receives will be determined by the Individualized Education Program (IEP) team.

IDEA requires “specially designed instruction” for students who are eligible for special education services. This means that instruction must be designed for an individual student. Thus services will look different for every child. Instruction includes more than academic instruction. Students on the autism spectrum, in particular, will need to learn social and behavioral skills, which will help them relate to peers and teachers and which will help them to be successful in a classroom environment.

In addition to specially designed instruction, your child may also be eligible to receive “related services.” Related services are those services which may be needed in order for a child with a disability to benefit from special education. They may include transportation, speech-language services, psychological services, physical therapy, occupational therapy, therapeutic recreation, assistive technology, social work services, counseling services, and school nurse services.

Your child, and your child’s teachers, may also be eligible for “supplementary aids and services.” Supplementary aids and services are supports that are provided in regular education classes or other education settings to enable children with disabilities to be educated with nondisabled children to the maximum extent appropriate. They may include modifications to the regular curriculum, assistance of an itinerant teacher or teacher’s assistant, training for teachers, visual supports, and various other accommodations, such as preferred seating and more frequent breaks.

The services provided your child should be based on peer-reviewed research to the extent practicable. This means that your child may be receiving Evidence Based Treatments – in other words, those that have been proven successful for children on the autism spectrum.

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Last Updated: May 29, 2020

The Center for Autism Research and The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia do not endorse or recommend any specific person or organization or form of treatment. The information included within the CAR Autism Roadmap™ and CAR Resource Directory™ should not be considered medical advice and should serve only as a guide to resources publicly and privately available. Choosing a treatment, course of action, and/or a resource is a personal decision, which should take into account each individual's and family's particular circumstances.

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