Special Education is defined as the practice of educating students who are faced with developmental, physical, and/or neurological delays. These special needs are at a level of severity that they cannot be met in a typical general education classroom. Special education programs cover a wide range of disabilities and learning differences, including but not limited to:
- Attention Deficit (Hyperactivity) Disorder
- Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Speech and/or Language Impairment
- Learning Disabilities
- Blindness / Visual Impairment
- Deafness / Hard of Hearing
Click here to learn more about special education, as well as a complete list of disabilities recognized by the IDEA and DSM-IV.
Knowing and understanding special needs are only half the battle, especially if you’re a special education teacher (or interested in becoming one). There are key groups, nonprofit organizations and government agencies that every special education professional should know about. These organizations drive policies that shape the field for everyone, especially students.
Organizations Every Special Education Teacher Should Know
NASET is a national membership organization whose mission is both meeting the needs of current special education teachers and helping those in training prepare for the job. The organization seeks to advance the professional development of special education teachers (via networking opportunities) as well as advance the profession itself through research and practice/policy standard innovation.
If you’re considering becoming a special education teacher, take advantage of NASET’s Professional Resources. Resources include a reference library, conference and event listings and information about getting your special education board certification and much more. NASET has also developed an app for tracking Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals and progress.
The CEC is “the largest international professional organization dedicated to improving the educational success of individuals with disabilities and/or gifts and talents.” The organization is a driving force behind policy, professional standards and advocacy changes within the special education community, but it’s also a professional development resource for professionals (or would-be professionals) in the field.
With an eye on improving the quality of life of students with disabilities and/or gifts and talents, the CEC site is a great resource for the most recent preparation and practice standards, as well as community news.
TASH is an international advocate for people with “significant disabilities and support needs,” and they’re particularly active in the education sector as they focus on diversity and inclusion. TASH promotes policy research and effective practices that impact individuals with disabilities in and out of the classroom. The organization demands “access to the curriculum” for all. They offer online training programs for educators who work with the severely disabled.
NOD researches, develops and demonstrates “creative approaches to disability employment issues,” which includes working directly with corporations in a consulting capacity, designing work programs any employers can use, and/or researching new approaches that help bridge the employment gap for people with disabilities.
Though not directly related to school-aged children, their research it’s particularly important to issues your students may face as they get older, such as workplace experiences.
- National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD)
The NCLD hopes to improve the lives of children and adults with learning disabilities by “empowering parents and young adults, transforming schools and advocating for equal rights and opportunities.” The NCLD specializes in learning and attention issues, so its website is a great source of news, publications and teaching resources.
Get Ready to Read
Teachers and administrators alike might also want to know about the NCLD’s scholarships for students with learning and attention issues, and for schools that demonstrate success in addressing the needs of students with LDs.
- The Arc
The Arc is an association for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. They are the largest community-based organization of its kind, and encompasses a wide range of developmental, neurological, and physical disabilities, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, Down Syndrome, and Fragile X Syndrome, among others. With over 700 chapters, The Arc is a key driver of public policy changes, and the force behind many national programs you may encounter in your work in special education, like
- The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) & IDEA.gov
- and the Down Syndrome Grant Program.
As part of the U.S. Department of Education, OSERS is a supporting force behind many programs that serve people with disabilities. You’ll want to familiarize yourself with the many grants the department offers.