Technical assistance paper

When are psychological services required for students with disabilities?

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When are psychological services required for students with disabilities?
For students with disabilities, the IEP team determines when and which, if any, psychological services (or mental health services) are necessary to assist a student in benefiting from his or her educational program. Although not required, the IEP team should include as one of its members the potential provider of the psychological or mental health services. If this is not feasible, a member of the team should be designated to consult with someone with expertise in delivery of psychological services.
Students with disabilities are educated, to the greatest extent possible, with students without disabilities in the least restrictive environment. It is important that students with disabilities have the opportunity to be educated in a climate that is conducive to their educational progress. Therefore, students with disabilities should learn in environments that are well-managed, where stress and anxiety are minimized, where fellow students are supportive and understand their needs, where parents are actively involved, and where special education services are integrated well with general education services. Psychological services, therefore, include consultation regarding classroom and building discipline programs, social skills training for all students, classroom-based interventions that promote understanding of disabilities and health-related disorders, parent training, and coordination of regular and special education programs (e.g.,
management/discipline programs).

In determining the need for psychological services, the IEP team should consider psychological services as those services that facilitate academic and emotional/behavioral progress by increasing the student’s academic engaged time


AET is the factor that best predicts and facilitates academic progress. There are many factors that have the potential to interfere with AET. These factors include student characteristics (e.g., attention, behavior/emotional strengths and weaknesses), curriculum factors (e.g., difficulty, format, relevancy), peer factors (e.g., reinforcing behaviors, modeling behaviors), teacher factors (e.g., teaching/learning styles, behavior management style), classroom/school environment
(e.g., rules, distractions, routines, discipline plans), and home/community factors (e.g., parent support, home discipline,
community safety, gangs, expectations). One or more of these factors has the potential to interfere with the AET and,
thus, the academic progress of an individual student, a classroom, or a school. The goal of psychological services is to limit the extent to which these factors interfere with or facilitate the AET and to develop activities that result in improved academic and behavioral/emotional development.

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