Toolbox Tuesday: Counseling. Special Ed Counseling. Is there a difference?

On Tuesdays around here we like to put the spotlight on The Toolbox.  This is a full day training program that our firm provides, focusing on the more challenging behaviors we sometimes see from kids with disabilities.

In the Toolbox training we talk a lot about BIPs and other means of encouraging appropriate student behavior. Often, this involves counseling. And that leads to today’s topic: Is there a difference between “counseling” and “special ed counseling”?

Looking into this recently, I discovered that our laws never use the term “special education counseling.”  However, our laws do refer to two different types of counseling: there is “counseling” and then there is “counseling as a related service.”  I expect when people refer to “special ed counseling” they are referring to “counseling as a related service.”

Counseling as a related service is available under federal law (IDEA) just as any other “related service.”  That means that the services are “required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education.”  34 CFR 300.34(a).

But students with a disability can also receive general counseling.  Consider a student with a disability who is pregnant.  Our state laws authorize counseling for that student.  She does not need counseling to benefit from instructional services. She needs counseling to cope with this new and scary reality in her life.  The same might be true for a student whose parents are getting divorced, or the student whose father just got incarcerated.

Take a look at your local policy.  Many of you have adopted a version of EJ Local that authorizes counseling to deal with school attitudes, self-confidence, healthy relationships, life satisfaction and other worthy objectives.  None of these are directly tied to a need to benefit from the special education instruction services offered by the school.

So the ARDC should decide if counseling is needed in order to benefit from the special education services. If so, the IEP should reflect that the student will receive “counseling as a related service.”  That also means that the IEP should specify the frequency, duration and location of services.   But whether “counseling as a related service” is needed or not, the student remains eligible for general ed counseling services, just like any other student.


File this one under: SPECIAL EDUCATION

Tomorrow: Can the middle school have a Gay-Straight Alliance club?