Who's Teaching Our Children with Disabilities? Part 9
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National Information Center for Children and Youth with
Why do People Become Special Educators?
Who Are Special Education Teachers?
What Kind of Training Do Special Educators Receive?
State Licensure and Its Role in the Education and Practice of Special Educators
What do Special Education Teachers Do?
Where do Special Education Teachers Work?
Are There Shortages of Special Educators?
What Do Special Education Teachers Like About Teaching?
Parent Tips for Working With Teachers
ForumsLearning and Other Disabilities
Education and Kids
Related ArticlesHow a Teacher Can Help the Child with ADD - Teaching Math
Parent Tips for Working With Teachers
Parents play a vital role in their child's education. They are equal partners in the team that develops their child's IEP, and they care deeply that their son or daughter learns and grows as a student and as a person. In the course of their child's educational career, parents may interact with a large number of professionals (e.g., their child's special education teacher, general education teacher, occupational therapist, speech therapist, physical therapist, and perhaps many different consultants). Being able to work effectively with these many professionals, exchanging ideas and concerns, communicating openly about what's working and what's not, are important elements in their child's educational success. This section offers suggestions to parents on how to establish and maintain good working relationships with the professionals involved in their son or daughter's education. These tips were collected from several parents of children of a variety of ages, with a variety of disabilities.
-- Remember that, as a parent, you know your child best and have the greatest investment in him or her. You need to diplomatically but strongly advocate for your child.
-- Develop relationships with the teachers who work with your child.
-- Get information, and know your options.
-- Remember that the people you are working with also care for your child.
-- You need to be credible and informed to have people listen to and respect what you say. Be sure to learn what your rights are.
-- Be aware that parents have a lot of power. Don't wait for two months to check in for results. If something is not resolved quickly, work on it. Teachers don't always have as much leverage as you think. You may be able to help your child's teacher resolve something much faster. Work as a team.
-- Remember that working with the school can a very emotional, personal process, because this is your child. It's very easy to feel defensive. Try to describe your needs in behavioral terms, not emotional terms.
-- Keep things in perspective: Ask yourself, "Is what my child is doing typical for his age group, or does his behavior have to do with his disability?" Encourage those who work with your child to do so, too.
-- Know that everything you do is not written in stone. You can change things. Just because you decided something at the end of June doesn't mean you have to do it for the next year. You can change it at the end of October if it's not working. You can call the committee back and ask to reevaluate the situation.
-- Reaffirm that "I don't expect you to fix my child" but to help him or her learn.
-- Remember to think of your child first. The disability is just part of who your child is. Remind people of your child's strengths. Encourage teachers to praise him or her.
-- Ask the teacher to have your child be in the helper position at times, not always the one being helped.
-- Encourage a work ethic at home. Put value on those traits that promote success in school: responsibility, consequences for behavior, organization, and punctuality. Jobs at home translate into expectations. A sense of cooperation and self-worth follow.
-- If you are not sure about how to talk with teachers, connect with other parents. It's like an adult buddy system. Talk to other parents about what they are doing. You can get a parent advocate to work with you-- someone who's gone through what you're going through.
-- The most important thing to do is to establish open communication. Try to be non-threatening. You can make friends and get what you need.
-- Look at yourself closely to identify habits or attitudes that interfere with effective communication or your being taken seriously.
-- Be sure to communicate any concerns or ideas right away, over the phone or with a note, while the discussion can be relatively casual. By communicating early, you can avoid becoming angry and frustrated; by intervening early, you can avoid a situation growing into a bigger problem or crisis.
-- One very effective way to keep communication open is to use log books. The teachers (and others who are working with your child) write in these each day and send them back home with the child. The parent reads what the teacher writes and responds and sends the book back with the child. These are especially effective with non-verbal children. It keeps the communication open between parent and teacher. Plus, sometimes writing to a teacher makes it easier to communicate an idea in the way that you want to express it.
-- Inform teachers immediately of any unusual circumstances occurring at home. A stressed child cannot attend to task, often exhibits disruptive behavior, or may simply space out. Teachers may misread the signs. Examples range from divorce to a sick grandmother to a new baby. Each student has a very different response to these life changes.
Creative Problem Solving
-- In order to get your point across or convince people to try something they might not be inclined to do, be positive and enthusiastic. Be very upfront and give them factual information about your child's needs to alleviate their fears. Explain the reasons you want something done, then suggest ways to do it.
-- Keep experimenting. You never know what will work.
-- Ask that your child participate in everything, even at a modified level of activity.
-- Convince people to try new activities or approaches before disqualifying them, even if it's for a trial time of one month.
-- Aim high.
-- If you feel that decisions are being made without you, call and ask to be included in discussions. You can suggest a "pre" IEP meeting to talk about some of your ideas and what your goals and the goals of your child are. This is especially helpful for meetings that involve therapists and/or both special and general education staff. By talking before the meeting with the specific people who are responsible for your areas of concern, you can structure the formal meeting so it goes smoothly and so the entire group can sign off with only one meeting.
-- Make a list of things you want to say before you go to a meeting and take it with you.
-- When you meet, give yourself plenty of time to discuss important issues.
-- Bring someone with you to the meeting for moral support-- your spouse, a friend, a sibling.
Good Parent-Teacher Relations
-- Write letters or make calls to say thank you when things are going well. It's always a good idea to let educators know about successes, especially those that occur outside of school. For really successful occurrences, send a copy of your letter to the principal or supervisor, so he or she, too, will know what a great job your child's teacher is doing.
-- Even if you don't agree with the methods that are being used, if your child is improving, recognize it.
-- Maintain a "we" attitude. Ask how "we" can work together to solve a given problem. Hopefully, teachers and parents have the same objectives in mind. Teachers often need help, not criticism.
-- Don't hesitate to admit if you're wrong.
-- Write articles to the local paper about one of your child's success stories. It's good for the school, the teacher, and your child.
-- If you're part of a parent group, consider inviting teachers and/or administrators to a meeting every now and again. They are probably curious about what parent groups talk about and would appreciate being included in discussions. Their perspectives are often very enlightening, and they may have concerns that never occurred to the parents. Remember, inclusion isn't only for kids.
-- Work on creating a good relationship with all the people who work with your child. Be open to sharing information about your child.
-- Be willing to take part. Volunteer to help out with things. Be as involved as possible.
-- Remember people at the end of each year. Little notes or gifts of thanks will be very appreciated by those who receive them.
-- Praise the people who work with your child even when things aren't going as well. Appreciate them when they've had a particularly hard day with your child. You may know all too well what that's like. Encourage them to keep trying, that tomorrow will be better, that you appreciate their efforts on your child's behalf.
Teaching students with special needs requires a great deal of training, determination, creativity, and energy. It requires the flexibility to work in a variety of situations-- self-contained classrooms, resource rooms, and in conjunction with general educators. Special educators, like general educators, are unique individuals with great tenacity and a passion for their work. They are full of energy and ideas and have never-give-up attitudes. They give children with special needs much hope and love, and, most important, belief in themselves.
Allinder, R. (1994). Use of time by teachers in various types of special education programs. Special Services in the Schools, 9(1), 125-136.
American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. (1994). Teacher education policy in the states. Washington, DC: Author.
Andrews, T. E. (Ed.). (1996). The NASDTEC manual 1996-1997. Seattle, WA: The National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education Certification.
Billingsley, B. S. (1993). Teacher retention and attrition in special and general education: A critical review of the literature. Journal of Special Education, 27(2), 137-174.
Boe, E. E., Bobbitt, S. A., Cook, L., & Weber, A. L. (1995, May). Retention, transfer, and attrition of special and general education teachers in national perspective. Paper presented at the National Dissemination Forum on Issues Relating to Special Education Teacher Satisfaction, Retention and Attrition, Washington, DC.
Brownell, M. T., Smith, S. W., McNellis, J., & Lenk, L. (1995). Career decisions in special education: Current and former teachers' personal views. Exceptionality, 5(2), 83-102.
Cook, L. H., & Boe, E. (1995, Fall). Who is teaching students with disabilities? TEACHING Exceptional Children, 28(1), 70-72.
Council for Exceptional Children. (1996). What every special educator must know: The international standards for the preparation and certification of special education teachers (2nd ed.). Reston, VA: Author.
Gonzalez, P. (1995, August). Factors that influence teacher attrition (NSTEP Information Brief 231-95). Alexandria, VA: National Association of State Directors of Special Education. Greene, K. (1993-94). Careers in special education. Occupational Outlook Quarterly. 37(4), 2-17.
Haselkorn, D., & Fideler, E. (1996). Breaking the class ceiling: Paraeducator pathways to teaching. Belmont, MA: Recruiting New Teachers.
Henke, R. R., Choy, S. P., Geiss, S., & Broughman, S. P. (1996). Schools and staffing in the United States: A statistical profile, 1993-94. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.
Lieberman, L. M. (1985). Special education and regular education: A merger made in heaven? Exceptional Children, 51(6), 513-516.
National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). (1995). An invitation to national board certification (Brochure). Detroit, MI: Author.
Pickett, A. L. (1996). A state of the art report on paraeducators in education and related services. New York: National Resource Center for Paraprofessionals in Education and Related Services.
Siegel, J., Taylor, S., & Greene, M. (1996, November). Why do people become special education teachers? Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Teacher Education Division of The Council for Exceptional Children, Orlando, Florida.
U.S. Department of Education. (1996). Eighteenth annual report to Congress on the implementation of The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Washington, DC: Author.
Weintraub, F., & McLane, K. (Eds.). (1995). Directory of programs for preparing individuals for careers in special education (1995 ed.). Reston, VA: The Council for Exceptional Children.
Collaboration Between Special and General Educators
Christen, M., & Hasbrouck, J. (1995, April). Providing peer coaching in inclusive settings: A tool for consulting teachers. Paper presented at the annual international convention of the Council for Exceptional Children, Indianapolis, IN. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 381 961)
Friend, M., & Cook, L. (1996). Interactions: Collaboration skills for school professionals (2nd ed.). White Plains, NY: Longman. (Available from: Longman, c/o Addison Wesley, 1 Jacob Way, Reading, MA 01867. Telephone: 1-800-447-2226.)
Latz, S., & Dogon, A. (1995, Summer). Co-teaching as an instructional strategy for effective inclusionary practices. Teaching and Change, 2(4) 330-351.
Reinhiller, N. (1995, April). Collaboration between special educators and general educators: The perspective of a researcher turned teacher-researcher. Paper presented at the annual conference of the American Educational Research Association, San Francisco, CA. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 390 190)
Stanovich, P. (1996, September). Collaboration: The key to successful instruction in todayÕs inclusive schools. Intervention in School and Clinic, 32(1), 39-42.
Stump, C., & Wilson, C. (1996, May). Collaboration: Making it happen. Intervention in School and Clinic, 31(5), 310-312.
Voltz, D., Elliott, R., Jr., & Cobb, H. (1994, October). Collaborative teacher roles: Special and general educators. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 27(8), 527-535.
Warger, C., & Pugach, M. (1996, February). Forming partnerships around curriculum. Educational Leadership, 53(5), 62-65.
In-service Support and Training
Broom, H. (1996, April). Building professional partnerships: A mentor program for special education teachers. Paper presented at the annual international convention of the Council for Exceptional Children, Orlando, FL. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 397 585)
Lane, G., & Canosa, R. (1995). A mentoring program for beginning and veteran teachers of students with severe disabilities. Teacher Education and Special Education, 18(4), 230-239.
Luckner, J. (1996, Winter). Juggling roles and making changes: Suggestions for meeting the challenges of being a special educator. TEACHING Exceptional Children, 28(2), 24-28.
McCabe, M. (1995, February). How principals can help the beginning special education teacher. NASSP Bulletin, 79(568), 1-14.
Sikorski, M., Niemiec, R., & Walberg, H. (1996, September/October). A classroom checkup: Best teaching practices in special education. TEACHING Exceptional Children, 29(1), 27-29.
Blalock, G. (1991). Paraprofessionals: Critical team members in our special education programs. Interventions in Schools and Clinic, 26(4), 200-214.
Hofmeister, A., Ashbaker, B., & Morgan, J. (1996, March). Paraeducators: Critical members of the rural education team. Paper presented at Rural Goals 2000: Building Programs That Work conference of the American Council on Rural Special Education (ACRES), Baltimore, MD. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 394 757)
Palma, G. (1994, Fall). Toward a positive and effective teacher and paraprofessional relationship. Rural Special Education Quarterly, 13(4), 46-48.
Pickett, A., Steckelberg, A., & Vasa, S. (1993, April). Promoting effective communications with paraeducators. Paper presented at annual conference of the Council for Exceptional Children, San Antonia, TX. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 357 586)
Pickett, A., Vasa, S., & Steckelberg, A. (1993). Using paraeducators effectively in the classroom. Bloomington, IN: Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation. (Available from: Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation, Box 789, Bloomington, IN 47402. Telephone: (812) 339-1156.)
Special Educator Preparation and Certification
Browning, P., & Dunn, C. (1994, January). Teacher preparation with an emphasis at the secondary level. Alabama Council for Exceptional Children Journal, 11(1), 13-23.
Cambone, J., Zambone, A., & Suarez, S. (1996, April). Are they learning as we expected them to learn? An evaluation of the preparation of special education teachers using a professional development school model. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New York, NY. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 394 251)
Council for Exceptional Children. (1996). What every special educator must know: The international standards for the preparation and certification of special education teachers (2nd ed.). Reston, VA: Author. (Available from CEC. See contact information under "Organizations.")
Graham, L., Hoffman, K., Meredith, D., Kleinman, S., Olasz, S., Strong, J., Osborne, J., & Puccini, I. (1995, April). Effective communication in special education student teaching. Paper presented at the annual international convention of the Council for Exceptional Children, Indianapolis, IN. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 381 959)
Ikei, F., & Hoga, B. (1995, March). Respecialization in Special Education (RISE) program: An alternative certification program. An overview. Paper presented at the international conference of the Learning Disability Association, Orlando, FL. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 381 944 )
Ludlow, B., & Wienke, W. (1994, March). Alternative certification in special education: A qualitative study of two models. Paper presented at the annual national conference of the American Council on Rural Special Education (ACRES), Austin, TX. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 369 603)
May, D, Kundert, M., & Akpan, C. (1994, Summer). Are we preparing special educators for the issues facing schools in the 1990s? Teacher Education and Special Education, 17(3), 192-199.
Rosenberg, M., & Rock, E. (1994, Summer). Alternative certification in special education: Efficacy of a collaborative field-based teacher preparation program. Teacher Education and Special Education, 17(3), 141-153.
Rousseau, M., & Tam, B. (1995). An apprenticeship model to recruit and prepare minority students to enter special education doctoral programs. Teacher Education and Special Education, 8(3), 179-191.
Weintraub, F., & McLane, K. (Eds.). (1995). Directory of programs for preparing individuals for careers in special education. Reston, VA: The Council for Exceptional Children. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 387 959)
Special Educator Recruitment and Retention
Ancarrow, J. (1996, April). Supply of personnel in special education: United States: 1969-70 to 1992-93. Paper presented at the annual international convention of the Council for Exceptional Children, Orlando, FL. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 397 613)
Brownell, M., Smith, S., & Miller, D. (1995, May). Attrition of special educators: Why they leave and where they go (working paper). A paper presented at the National Dissemination Forum on Issues Relating to Special Education Teacher Satisfaction, Retention, and Attrition, Washington, DC. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 389 156)
Cegelka, P., & Doorlag, D. (1995, May). Personnel preparation: Relationship to job satisfaction (draft report, working paper #7). A paper presented at the National Dissemination Forum on Issues Relating to Special Education Teacher Satisfaction, Retention, and Attrition, Washington, DC. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 389 152)
Cooley, E., & Yovanoff, P. (1996, February). Supporting professionals-at-risk: Evaluating interventions to reduce burnout and improve retention of special educators. Exceptional Children, 62(4), 336-355.
Gonzales, P. (1995). Causes and cures of teacher attrition: A selected bibliography focusing on special education. Alexandria, VA: National Association of State Directors of Special Education. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 389 128)
Lemke, J. (1995, Spring). Attracting and retaining special educators in rural and small schools: Issues and solutions. Rural Special Education Quarterly, 14(2), 25-30.
Littrell, P., Billingsley, B., & Cross, L. (1994, September). The effects of principal support on special and general educators' stress, job satisfaction, school commitment, health, and intent to stay in teaching. Remedial and Special Education, 15(5), 297-310.
National Clearinghouse for Professions in Special Education (1996). 34 activities to promote careers in special education and related services. Reston, VA: Author. (Available from NCPSE. See contact information under "Organizations.")
Raidl, A. E., & Graham, L. (1994, April). Surviving and thriving in special education student teaching. Paper presented at the annual international convention of the Council for Exceptional Children, Denver, CO. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 372 546)
Singh, K., & Billingsley, B. (1996, January). Intent to stay in teaching: Teachers of students with emotional disorders versus other special educators. Remedial and Special Education, 17(1), 37-47.
Westling, D., & Whitten, T. (1996, February). Rural special education teachers' plans to continue or leave their teaching positions. Exceptional Children, 62(4), 319-335.
Ahearn, E. (1995). Caseload/class size in special education: A brief analysis of state regulations (final report). Alexandria, VA: Project FORUM, National Association of State Directors of Special Education. [Available from: National Association of State Directors of Special Education, 1800 Diagonal Rd., Suite 320, Alexandria, VA 22314. Telephone: (703) 519-3800 (V); (703) 519-7008 (TTY).]
Allinder, R. (1994). Use of time by teachers in various types of special education programs. Special Services in the Schools, 9(1), 125-136.
Cohen, M. K., Gale, M., & Meyer, J. (1994). Survival guide for the first-year special education teacher (Rev. ed.). Reston, VA: Council for Exceptional Children. (Available from CEC. See contact information under "Organizations.")
Cook, L. (Fall 1995). Who is teaching children with disabilities? TEACHING Exceptional Children, 28(1), 70-72.
Green, K. (1993-94, Winter). Careers in special education. Occupational Outlook Quarterly, 37(4), 2-17.
National Professional Resources makes available a number of videos of interest to special educators and paraprofessionals:
Dover, W. (1996). Where do I start? [Videotape 1, in the training video series for paraprofessionals]. 40 minutes.National Professional Resources.
Dover, W. (1996). Working with students in the inclusive classroom [Videotape 2]. 40 minutes. National Professional Resources.
Dover, W. (1996). Working with other adults in the inclusive classroom [Videotape 3]. 40 minutes. National Professional Resources.
Facing inclusion together through collaboration and co-teaching. (1993). National Professional Resources.
The power of two: Making a difference through co-teaching. (1996). National Professional Resources.
Contact: National Professional Resources, 25 South Regent Street, Port Chester, NY 10573. Telephone: 1-800-453-7461. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org URL: http://www.nprinc.com
American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), One Dupont Circle, NW, Suite 610, Washington, DC 20036-1186. Telephone: (202) 293-2450. URL: http://www.aacte.org
American Council on Rural Special Education (ACRES), University of Utah, Milton Bennion Hall, Rm 221, Salt Lake City, UT 84112. Telephone: (801) 585-5659; (801) 581-5223. E-mail: email@example.com
American Federation of Teachers, 555 New Jersey, NW, Washington, DC 20001. Telephone: (202) 879-4400. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org URL: http://www.aft.org
Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), 1920 Association Drive, Reston, VA 20191-1589. Telephone: (703) 620-3660; (703) 264-9446 (TTY). E-mail: email@example.com URL: http://www.cec.sped.org/
ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education, The Council for Exceptional Children, 1920 Association Drive, Reston, VA 20191-1589. Telephone: (800) 328-0272. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org URL: http://www.cec.sped.org/ericec.htm
ERIC Clearinghouse on Teaching and Teacher Education, One Dupont Circle, NW, Suite 610, Washington, DC 20036-1186. Telephone: (800) 822-9229; (202) 293-2450. E-mail: email@example.com URL: http://www.ericsp.org
National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, 1730 Rhode Island, NW, Suite 909, Washington, DC 20036. Telephone: (202) 463-3980; (800) 229-9074. URL: http://www.nbpts.org
National Clearinghouse for Professions in Special Education (NCPSE), 1920 Association Drive, Reston, VA 20191-1589. Telephone: 1-800-641-7824; 703-264-9476; 703-264-9480 (TTY). E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org URL: http://www.cec.sped.org/ncpse.htm
National Education Association, 1201 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036. Telephone: (202) 833-4000. URL: http://www.nea.org
National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities (NICHCY), P.O. Box 1492, Washington, DC 20013-1492. Telephone: 1-800-695-0285 (Voice/TTY); (202) 884-8200 (Voice/TTY). E-mail: email@example.com URL: http://www.nichcy.org
Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS), Switzer Building, 330 C Street, SW, Washington, DC 20202. Telephone: (202) 205-5465. URL: http://www.ed.gov/officers/OSERS/
Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), Switzer Building, 330 C Street, SW, Washington, DC 20202. Telephone: (202) 205-5507. URL: http://www.ed.gov/offices/OSERS/OSEP/index.html
NICHCY News Digest is published several times a year in response to questions from individuals and organizations that contact the Clearinghouse. In addition, NICHCY disseminates other materials and can respond to individual requests for information. For further information and assistance, or to receive a NICHCY Publications Catalog, contact NICHCY, P.O. Box 1492, Washington, DC 20013. Telephone: 1-800-695-0285 (Voice/TTY) and (202) 884-8200 (Voice/TTY). Visit our Web site at http://www.nichcy.org. You can also e-mail us: firstname.lastname@example.org.
NICHCY thanks Dr. Peggy Cvach, our Project Officer at the Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education, for her time in reviewing this publication.
Director, NICHCY: Suzanne Ripley
NICHCY would also like to thank parents Therese Divita and Maura Stockwell, and teachers Debbie Boyce, Mary Malone, Sharon Mierow, Chris Ohm, Ellie White, and Laura Zappia for their contributions. We would also like to thank our reviewers for their time and attention in reviewing this publication: Judy Beck, Associate Director, AACTE; Carol Davis, CSPD Coordinator; Kathy Graves, parent; Dr. Landa Iverson; Dr. June Lemke, Chair, Department of Teacher Education, Gonzaga University; and, Fred Weintraub, Assistant Executive Director, Professional Standards in Practice, The Council for Exceptional Children.
This information is copyright free, unless otherwise indicated. Readers are encouraged to copy and share it, but please credit the National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities (NICHCY). Please share your ideas and feedback with our staff by writing to the Editor.
Publication of this document is made possible through Cooperative Agreement #H030A30003 between the Academy for Educational Development and the Office of Special Education Programs of the U.S. Department of Education. The contents of this document do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.