With over six million students in the United States diagnosed with learning disabilities and other special needs, the field of exceptional education and the need for quality teachers has grown dramatically. While it is one of the most challenging professions in all of teaching, special education can also be one of the most rewarding. Fortunately, there are a wealth of online resources to help special educators navigate legal requirements, construct meaningful and adaptive lesson plans, and leverage technology to help all students learn and experience academic success.
1. The Council for Exceptional Children
The mission of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) is to improve the lives of individuals with disabilities through educational success. As a professional organization, CEC’s website offers extensive information on policy and advocacy initiatives, opportunities for professional development in the field of special education, and additional resources that cover everything from podcasts and a career center to guidelines for families and caregivers. The site’s ‘CECommunity’ provides an online meeting place for special educators and their peers to exchange ideas and best practices for the classroom.
Founded by a New York City public school teacher, Teachers Pay Teachers features an extensive catalog of lesson plans and learning activities created by K-12 teachers. While there are thousands of resources for general education classrooms, the site also boasts one of the largest collections of adapted special education lessons and materials available anywhere. The affordability of instructional materials (most can be purchased for less than $10) makes the site a go-to resource for any current or aspiring special education teacher. A sample of materials offered includes a ‘Calm Down Kit’ for students with autism, articulation cards, do-it-yourself intervention binders, and graphs for student data.
The National Association of Special Education Teachers (NASET) is a membership organization dedicated to supporting the work of special educators. NASET’s website includes one of the most comprehensive online libraries of professional resources, covering such topics as board certification, IEP development, transition services, and laws governing the delivery of special education services in public schools. Also included are lists of pertinent conferences, events and opportunities for professional development. NASET’s publications cover a broad range of topics such as assessments, ADHD, classroom management, effective discipline, and guidelines for working effectively with parents.
Although it is primarily a literacy site targeting younger students, Reading Rockets is a wonderful resource for special education teachers. Many of the site’s strategies are helpful for older students who experience reading difficulties due to learning disabilities. In fact, an entire section of the site addresses specific ways to help struggling readers. Videos, articles and Q&A sessions with experts are invaluable for both teachers and parents of exceptional students. Research topics covered on Reading Rockets include intensive reading intervention strategies, creating tutoring programs with community volunteers, and improving outcomes for at-risk students.
The digital giant is not alone in the field of education, but Apple has dedicated part of its website to exploring technology options for students with special needs. Many teachers see the benefits of using digital devices and specialized apps as integral parts of their students’ progress, especially when it comes to differentiated lessons. In addition to instructional videos on how to use iPads effectively in the classroom, the site lists hundreds of educational apps and links to interactive textbooks.
These five websites are a great start for special educators. Sites like Pinterest, education.com and Discovery Education Online also contain a wealth of knowledge, ideas, strategies and curricula. The one thing these sites share in common is the goal of helping individuals with special needs through the extraordinary people who teach them.