034-12 IEP – Services to Parents
Are IEP teams required to include services to parents in a student’s IEP? As an example, if a hearing impaired student requires instruction in American Sign Language (ASL), would the school division be required to provide instruction in ASL to the student’s parents?
Providing services to parents as a part of a student’s IEP depends on whether or not the student’s educational needs require the parent to have certain knowledge and skills in order to implement the IEP and to work toward meeting the child’s goal(s). Services provided to parents that link to the child’s IEP generally fall under “related services,” but may also be considered “assistive technology services” if the services are related to the student’s use of an assistive technology device. The Virginia Regulations, at 8 VAC 20-81-10, provide definitions of assistive technology services, parent counseling and training, and related services. For this discussion, the pertinent sections are:
“Assistive technology services” means any service that directly assists a child with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device. The term includes: (34 CFR § 300.6)…
5. Training or technical assistance for a child with a disability or, if appropriate, that child’s family ….(emphasis added).
“Parent counseling and training” means assisting parents in understanding the special needs of their child, providing parents with information about child development, and helping parents to acquire the necessary skills that will allow them to support the implementation of their child’s IEP or IFSP (emphasis added) (34 CFR § 300.34 (c)(8)).
“Related services” …also includes…. parent counseling and training… (emphasis added) (§22.1-213 of the Code of Virginia; 34 CFR § 300.34(a) and (b)).
As the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) has emphasized, any related services provided for parents must assist the child in developing skills needed to benefit educationally or correct factors that interfere with the child’s progress toward the child’s IEP goals. (Letter to Dagley, 17 IDELR 1107, June 3, 1991). Types of such related services are found in the federal and Virginia regulations governing special education;
- Counseling and guidance of parents regarding hearing loss concerning the related service of audiology.
- Assistive technology services specific to training or technical assistance for the child’s family (see reference above).
- Parent counseling and training.
- Planning and managing a program of psychological counseling for children and parents.
- Counseling of parents regarding speech and language impairments concerning the related service of speech pathology.
- Group and individual counseling with the child and family.
(34 CFR §300.34; 8 VAC 20-81-10)
OSEP further advises on this issue in its Commentary to the federal regulations:
Section 300.34(c)(8)(iii), regarding helping parents acquire the skills to allow them to support the implementation of their child’s IEP or IFSP, was added in the 1999 regulations to recognize the more active role of parents as participants in the education of their children.
Although not included in the Act [IDEA], we believe it is important to retain this provision in these regulations so that there is no question that parent counseling and training includes helping parents acquire skills that will help them support the implementation of their child’s IEP or IFSP.
[Federal Register, 2006, p. 46573]
Specific skill instruction for parents may also be considered related services. Examples may include instruction in ASL, instruction in the use of alternative communication systems/devices, and instruction on specific assistive technology devices.
OSEP also spoke directly to the issue of ASL in Letter to Dagley. The specific query was whether or not sign language instruction for parents of children with hearing impairments is considered a related service under the IDEA. The argument in support of the parent receiving ASL is that the parent will acquire the necessary skills to help support the implementation of the IEP. OSEP’s response focuses on the standard of appropriateness:
If a parent of a child with a hearing impairment or a school district believes that sign language instruction for the parent is needed in order for the child to benefit from the special education and related services included in the child’s IEP, then the parent’s need for such instruction must be considered by the participants on the IEP team. If the participants on the IEP team determine that this service is needed, sign language instruction must be provided to the parent as a related service in the form of “parent counseling and training” and must be included in the child’s IEP.
It is clear that when dealing with this issue the IEP team must review these considerations on a case-by-case basis. There are no absolutes. Conversely, such requests from parents may not be summarily dismissed. The IEP team’s decision must rest on the threshold standard emphasized by OSEP: are such services needed in order for the child to benefit educationally or correct factors.