The term “related services” is defined under Part B of The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA – amended 2004) as including “transportation and such developmental, corrective, and other supportive services as are required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education.” 34 CFR §300.24(a). Examples of related services identified in Part B include “occupational therapy” (34 CFR §300.24(b)(5)), and “physical therapy” (34 CFR §300.24(b)(8)).

The determination as to whether physical therapy or occupational therapy is a related service that is necessary to assist the child to benefit from special education must be made by the child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) team on a case-by-case basis in light of the child’s unique needs. Under 34 CFR §300.300(a)(3)(ii), the services and placement needed for a child to receive “free appropriate public education” (FAPE) must be based on the child's unique needs, and not on the type of disability. Related services, including occupational therapy and physical therapy, that the IEP team determines are necessary to assist the child to benefit from special education must be included in the child’s IEP and provided to the child at no cost to the parents.

Part B would not require an IEP team to include occupational therapy or physical therapy, or any other related service in a child’s IEP based on a parental request for those services, unless the IEP team determines that the services are required to assist the child to benefit from special education.

In order for students to receive occupational/physical therapy services under IDEA Part B, federal law requires that the students be eligible for special education and that the related service be necessary to assist the students with disabilities to benefit from special education. Occupational/physical therapy serves in a supportive role, helping students participate in and benefit from special education.

School-based OT and PT services can be initiated after an assessment is completed or a student transitions into a school system with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) in place (and continuation of services is indicated).