Finding strategies for working with special needs students can be a challenge for full-time special education teachers, let alone teachers who work on a part-time basis with kids facing challenges . Education World understands the problems you face and offers online resources that can help you better understand -- and help -- students with special needs.
Today, almost every classroom includes a number of students who are dealing with a disability -- either physical, educational, emotional, or a combination of all three. As a teacher, you probably find yourself looking for information and resources that will help you effectively teach those students and help them learn successfully.
The number of special-education Web sites for teachers can be overwhelming, however.
Education World has searched the Web for sites that provide information about specific disabilities and suggest activities for classroom use. Although most are intended primarily for use with students who have disabilities, many can be adapted for use with all students.
Teachers Helping Teachers is a terrific site for all teachers, but its Special Education section provides a number of activities that are specifically geared toward teaching basic skills to special students. The activities, for students from kindergarten through high school, are submitted by classroom teachers from around the country and include lessons in reading, math, geography, current events, and study skills. The activity Weird Letters, for example, helps students with learning disabilities identify and remember letters that don't always look they way they're supposed to. Using Newspapers is a functional activity designed to teach social studies or language arts to special-education students. This site also includes information on inclusion and mainstreaming and The Guest Book, a forum where teachers exchange ideas and advice.
Special Needs, Special Kids, created by a special-needs mediator, provides an abundance of information about specific disabilities, such as autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, epilepsy, and spinal bifida. In addition, the site provides educational resources, including games and suggestions for adapting them to children with a variety of disabilities, activities for developing fine-motor skills, and discussions of a variety of special-education issues. The site provides insights into such topics as American Sign Language and wheelchair etiquette, as well as resources for 98 Ways to Say "Very Good" and the Ten Commandments for Educators. This is a well-written, easily navigable site that provides a wide variety of useful resources.
Finally, you may want to promote home-school interaction by sharing Very Special Home Pages with families of special students. This site provides free home pages for children and adults with special needs. Each biography, written by a parent or caregiver, displays the talents, hobbies, and personality of the person with special needs and allows visitors to see beyond the disability.
The greatest number of disability-related sites do not include many lessons or activities. They are, however, excellent sources for information on special-education programs, policies, resources, organizations, educational strategies, and specific disabilities. Many also provide links to sites where you'll find activities that can be adapted for use with special-education students.
Misunderstood Kids: Outside the Box, a site for parents and teachers of all types of special-needs children, includes an Especially for Teachers page. The linked sites provide information, lesson plans, and activities. There's a lot here, so be sure to check out the site map so you won't miss anything.
Modifications for Students With Tourette Syndrome, Attention-Deficit Disorder, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder contains information about simple modifications of methods and expectations that can make life easier for special-education students and their teachers. The strategies suggested, which are valid for use with students with almost any type of disability, include techniques for time and materials management, transition activities, and organizational methods.
A number of other worthwhile sites that provide information on specific disabilities also include ideas and suggestions that can be used with students who have other disabilities.
Many students with disabilities require adaptive or assistive products to help them meet the challenges posed by their disabilities. Recent technology has provided a number of products that are useful both at home and in the classroom.
Assistive Technology Training Online Project This project of the University of Buffalo's School of Public Health and Health Professions provides information on AT applications tht help students with disabilities learn in elementary classrooms.
The Virtual Assistive Technology Center provides downloads of freeware and shareware that can be used by people who have disabilities. Scroll past the list of sponsors to find lists of available Mac, DOS, and Windows products.
And if you still haven't found what you're looking for, explore one of the sites below. Each contains extensive lists of links to sites on disabilities and special education.
Internet Resources for Special Children
This site includes links to information, help, and specialty products for people with conditions ranging from amputation to Tourette's syndrome.
This resource from the University of Virginia offers lots of links to valuable information and resources for parents, teachers, and administrators. You'll find a page here containing sites on developing accessible Web sites.
Article by Linda Starr
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