For the Teacher
Teaching Students with Dis/Abilities
As one of the most rewarding professions, being a special education teacher requires a lot of expertise, patience, and dedication. One of the most important aspects, I think, of being a good special education teacher is framing and conceptualizing our students rightly and with dignity. Using person-first language helps put emphasis on the person, rather than the disability. Therefore, it is helpful to say, "my student has a medical disability" rather than "my medically disabled student." This type of syntax comes from disability rights advocates who have pioneered ways to make education accessible for students with disabilities.
Regarding your training and education
Having the proper support as you train and are educated as a special education teacher is vital. I suggest entering a teacher education program, not just a teacher training program. You cannot just have the tools if you do not know the guiding vision behind using each tool. A comprehensive understanding, an education, around special education is important to knowing how to really advocate and teach your students in an informed and purposeful way. Proper placement and support from teachers who have been in the field for a long time can teach you wonders. You take the good and leave the bad behind, but it is ultimately about crafting the art of teaching with a diverse group of students that makes it universal, and not just specific to special education. Knowing how to calm a student down before they escalate into a larger crisis is a useful skill any teacher could benefit from. In short, enter an education program that can train and educate you well with the right supports in place.
RESOURCES & LINKS
I find this document invaluable. Written by a fellow colleague, I refer to this constantly when writing Individualized Educational Plans.
This is an invaluable resource for teachers. Their learning library is full of pdfs and resources to help support your students. I encourage you to explore this website. Thank you Andrea R. for sharing this and other strategies with me!
The TCICP project in NYC holds free Saturday workshops where educators from across the city come and share their ideas on special education, assisstive technology, differentiation, and other new breakthrough ideas in special education.
Here is their website: http://www.tcicp.com/
Here is their blog: http://inclusiveclassrooms.pressible.org/celiaoyler/nyc-doe-phase-one-tcicp
Caroline Musselwhite's website that talks about ways to integrate assistive technology into the classroom. Great resource.
American Sign Language Resources
American Sign Language (ASLPRO)
For your nonverbal students or students who do not speak, I highly suggest teaching them sign language. ASLPRO.com has some great videos, but their website interface is really cluttered by ads. If you can navigate past the ads, this is a useful website. Additionally, for students who do not speak, I highly encourage using a variety of visuals and a consistent pattern of response for your students. For example, one of the responses my mentor teacher, Kevin D., had in the Bronx with one of our students consisted of affirming what they wanted, but also letting them know they needed to do work. He signed and said, "First do work (or x), then you can do y (whatever it was the student wanted to do presently." It was effective because the student responded and not only stayed on task, but felt understood and was able to enjoy her activity at a later time that was appropriate.
A website that has lots of great resources on deaf culture and ASL dictionaries. Thank you Stephanie R. for pointing this out!
American Sign Language (lifeprint.com)
This is another great website full of wonderful sign language resources and videos. Feel free to peruse it for potential lesson ideas.
TIPS & SERVICES
Depending on the needs of your students, try some of the following supports to help them.
Conceptualizing a Problem
Some of the best ways to help a student conceptualize a problem they are having is to help them understand the scale to which their problem should elicit an appropriate response. For example, if a student did not get what he wanted when it was his turn to choose something, it is important to help a student understand whether or not that was a problem with him/herself, a problem with another person which may require a teacher, or a disaster where they may have to call the President of the United States. Having a visual velcro board may help students conceptualize the scale of the problem and then having options underneath for the student to choose from may help them think of ways to respond appropriately.