Tag Archive for: special education

Most educators would agree that engagement is the key to teaching children. Engagement fuels motivation, curiosity and performance.

Study after study shows that technology plays a vital role in student engagement. Learning through interactive videos and iPads, for instance, has shown to dramatically increase understanding and overall performance in mainstream classroom settings.

Technology and Special Education

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It might be even more important to find ways in which to engage special education students. In many cases, special needs students are more easily distracted or bored. Like most of their peers, though, special education students are drawn to technological gadgets and programs.

Is it no small wonder, then,  that teachers and administrators are turning to technology to help them help special needs children?

A “Bigger Toolbox”

From apps to iPads, technology has permeated school systems around the United States. Seizing what most excites and engages students, schools have introduced video games and other devices in which to teach math, science and other subjects.

At the same time, assistive technology, such as speech-recognition programs, Braille displays and listening systems, has come a long way in the past several years. Many of these technologies are available as apps that can easily be downloaded to various devices.

Combining this type of technology with the technology of tablets, smartphones and other devices has given teachers and administrators a “much bigger toolbox” when it comes to educating special needs children, says Wendy Burkhardt, an assistive technology coordinator for California’s San Ramon Valley Unified School District.

“This technology has been an amazing eye-opener,” says Robin Lowell, a math teacher for the Washington State School for the Blind.Utilizing the most recent advances in assistive technology, Lowell is able to teach remotely through her desktop computer.

The voice and video system such as the one used by Ms. Lowell allows the school to provide students with a teacher who has the proven ability to successfully convey math concepts to disabled students as compared to the methods of less experienced and less trained instructors.

Technology and Special Education

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How It Works

So why is technology proving to be so helpful to special education students? In many cases, in much the same way it helps mainstream students.

Using technology in the classroom has shown to build a student’s confidence and independence by allowing them to take a different approach in the area where they might be struggling. For instance, a student with a learning disability in reading can listen to an audio book.

In short, assistive technology can be used to play to the strengths of each special needs student, from those with learning disorders to those facing physical limitations.

Technology is also helpful when it comes to integration. Special needs students using assistive technology can more easily participate in inclusive classrooms. In many cases, all it takes is modifying existing technologies, such as whiteboards, iPads or web-based tools, that are commonly used in the classroom to accommodate special education students.

Can this type of technology take the place of effective and dedicated teachers? Likely not. But it can, as Ms. Burkhardt stated, be a great tool in which to assist those who take on the challenges of a demanding career in special education.

As the number of children with autism or learning disabilities across the United States continues to grow, and legislation designed to oversee the education of these children is increasingly drawn upon, it is no small wonder that those schooled in law are looking to become a special education lawyer because they are needed now more than ever.

Those who have studied and practice in education law and have experience in special education issues can help parents navigate the legal complexities of this area of the law. More often than not, a special education lawyer helps to resolve matters of dispute more effectively and efficiently than can parents alone.

Defining a Special Education Lawyer



Special education lawyers must be familiar with all aspects of education law, such as education reform and student  and teacher civil rights. It is also helpful for special education lawyers to be familiar with autism and all types of learning disabilities.

In addition, they need to have a strong understanding of all federal and state legislation regarding special education. They need to have knowledge of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (most notably Section 504, which protects those with disabilities from being discriminated against from any organization).

Special education lawyers mainly help to develop an Individual Education Program (IEP) for a special needs child. This is a plan describing how a school will educate a particular special needs child. Special education lawyers can also help mediate disagreements between parents and schools if an IEP is not adhered to, or if other problems arise concerning how the child is educated.

Advocating for the Special Needs Child

In many cases, parents become advocates for their children when it comes to education. However, many parents are simply not knowledgeable in areas of negotiation, legal communication or due process when problems concerning their special needs child or children arise. Some parents simply don’t have the time nor the resources to adequately prepare and present their arguments.

This is where special education lawyers come in.

“A good attorney can advise a parent how to obtain a better program and services, how to effectively advocate for the child,” says David A. Sherman, a special education lawyer for Medical malpractice lawyers phoenix, he also wrote: “Autism: Asserting Your Child’s Right to a Special Education.” Source: (http://www.baizlaw.com/practice-areas/medical-malpractice)

What’s more, Sherman says, “A special education attorney will advise a parent as to how to assert their child’s numerous and substantial rights.”

Going the Extra (Special) Mile

Do special education lawyers do more than any other type of lawyer? On the surface, no. They file documents, attend meetings and hearings, write briefs…in short, do all of the things any lawyer would do no matter the nature of the issue, whether it be a criminal case, divorce proceeding or child custody battle.



But special education lawyers perform a service that other lawyers do not: they bring a voice to those who may not be able to speak for themselves. In many cases, defendants can go to the stand on their own behalf. Some even become active participants in the preparation of their defense.

Special needs children do not have this luxury. They do not understand the laws that are being broken when the school they attend does not honor their IEPs or federal legislative mandates. Most parents are not well versed in these laws. It is the special education lawyer who must act as advocate for these special needs children.

And not just your average advocate, but one who is armed with the legal knowledge and mediation skills needed to get the job done. Considering the importance of what’s at stake (a fair education for all), the impact of a special education lawyer cannot be understated.


Demanding. Rewarding. Fulfilling. These are some of the words used to describe working with special needs children by those who have or are currently doing the job. As with parenting, it could be said that working with special needs children is the “toughest job you’ll ever love”.

From a heightened sense of accomplishment to a potentially life-altering perception of those less fortunate, there are many positive aspects to this type of work. Is it for everyone? No. But it just may be for you.



Satisfaction Guaranteed

Whether it’s teaching the child with special needs in an inclusive classroom or in a separate special education program, teachers who have successfully worked with these students often describe the satisfaction they feel when the material is–sometimes, at long last–understood.

Why is this ultimately more satisfying that teaching in a traditional classroom, to traditional students?

Successes in working with these children are measured in inches, not feet. Even the smallest achievements of a special needs child is cause for celebration; the road to that achievement has likely been longer and rougher than for those without disabilities.

Setbacks, time spent coming up with more creative approaches to the material and even physically violent episodes might litter the road to that “Eureka!” moment when a special needs child grasps the concept being taught.

‘Part of the Job Description’

Yes, special needs children can kick. Or punch. But many teachers feel that this just comes with the territory. “It’s part of our job description,” was how special education director Kami Finger addressed it.

And these episodes can be offset by the knowledge that they’re doing the work that needs to be done for these children. Up to point when they have gotten a child to understand that math problem or that history lesson, they have already put in a lot of time, not just in the classroom but outside of it as well.

They’ve likely:

  • spent countless hours coming up with new and original ways to deliver the material

  • written several lesson plans, possibly one for each special needs child in their classroom

  • attended special training and special meetings

All this, too: just part of the job description.

The Patience of a Saint?

Does one truly need the “patience of a saint” to work with children with special needs? While it’s true that the job does require patience in abundance, some say that it more needs compassion and understanding and the will to work with those whom the school system–and even life itself–might easily leave behind.


Working with special needs children can make you more aware of their plight in everyday society. It might help you not just at the moment but in many future moments to come. You’re likely to encounter an adult in a wheelchair, or with a personality disorder, at some time in your life. How you approach and interact with that person can be benefited by the fact that you work or worked with special needs children.

You just might come away with more of an appreciation of all people and how they develop, not just your students’ but your own children as well. You might learn patience, yes; and tolerance, and acceptance, and empathy. It doesn’t need to be seen as saintly, just human.

And that’s the payoff for all the hard work. For enduring that aforementioned job description. Working with special needs children can be difficult at the moment you’re doing it. But the dividends it can pay could last the rest of your life.


Parents and guardians of children with special needs are faced with many decisions they need to make every day — what doctors to go to, what medical treatments to try, how do they meet all of their child’s needs each day. The process can be quite overwhelming!

Caregivers also have to make important decisions when it comes to their child’s education. And again, depending on what type of special needs their child has, the endeavor can sometimes leave parents with more questions than answers.

Types of Special Education

One of the most important questions parents will need to answer is what type of special education learning environment do they want for their child. Different schools offer different options, from full inclusion classrooms to specialized smaller group classes where more intensive help is needed. And depending on your child’s special needs and personality, different situations may be more suitable for them.

The good news is today, thanks to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), most schools are equipped to help students with special needs. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2009 about 95 percent of students who have disabilities aged 6 to 21 were served in regular schools, meaning they did not have to attend a private school or another type of institution.

The first step is to make an appointment with your child’s school to speak with your child’s teacher, principal and anyone else involved in the special education program to find out what options are available, and which options they recommend for certain disabilities and for your child in particular. According to an article on SchoolPsychologistFiles.com, schools are required to place students with special needs in the “Least Restrictive Environment,” part of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA) of 2004. That means if children with special needs should be allowed to learn with their peers as much as their special needs allows them to. This would then become part of the student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

Caregivers should also get feedback from their doctors for their recommendations and guidance.

To help you get started, here’s a look at some of the special education options traditionally offered in schools to give you some background on what you can expect.

Inclusion Classroom

An example of a Least Restrictive Environment for a student with special needs would as part of an inclusion classroom. According to the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities, this would allow that student to learn alongside their peers — regardless if they have special needs or not. And during the day students with special needs are given all the services they require, so students with special needs are not pulled out of class during the day, but instead get to stay and work with their peers.


For some special needs, students can still do the majority of their learning in a standard classroom and then receive specialized help a few times a week or month from a specialist – such as the school psychologist, a language specialist, or special education teacher – resulting in a teamwork approach to the student’s education.

Resource Room

Another option your school might have is a resource room for students with special needs. In this type of environment, students with special needs are in a smaller class with a special education teacher, allowing for more attention to be paid to those who may have greater needs. Depending on the program, students may spend time in the Resource Room for just a few hours a day, or receive the bulk of their education in this environment.

Day/Out-of-District Placement

For those students with severe needs, or schools that are unable to address all of a student’s needs, sometimes these children are better served attending a specialized school outside your hometown.


If you have a child with special needs, learning about special education terminology and laws can make a significant difference in your child’s educational career. From the supports offered to enforcement of their IEP, your knowledge of special education is fundamental for your child’s success. Review this infographic to get an overview of special education: