Top Five Resources for Special Education Teachers

IMG_5079The past month I had been asked by a few sources to cull my bookshelves and devise a list of my tried and true manuals for special education.  One list I comprised for my former University will be coming out to showcase 10 exceptional resources.  However, today, for the Yellin Center, I whittled and augment my list down to a mere five texts that make my life as a Learning Specialist a touch simpler. In my article, which you will find below, I elected to focus on technical texts, rather than teaching resources.  The literature detailed in the article are resources on the current research and practical strategies for applying the best practices in learning theory.  I hope they are as helpful to you as they have been for me.

Top Five Resources for Special Education Teachers

There is an abundance of exceptional, well researched literature out there for teachers who work with diverse students to draw from. However, I find that there are a select few texts that I refer back to regularly for clarification, insight or strategies. I have culled and whittled down my bookshelf to my top five picks, and described the merits of each text:

1. Exceptional Lives: Special Education in Today’s Schools (7th Edition) by Ann Turnbull, Rud Turnbull, Michael L. Wehmeyer and Karrie A. Shogren

Exceptional Lives provides a detailed, robust description of the different disability categories and federal special education laws. This excellent text is a foundational “read and return to” resource for any teacher working with diverse learners. Throughout the text, the authors use the framework of three guiding themes: Inclusion, Partnerships, and Universal Design for Progress.

2.Assistive Technology in the Classroom: Enhancing the School Experiences of Students with Disabilities by Amy G. Dell, Deborah Newton and Jerry G. Petroff

This text discusses how assistive technology can be used to achieve the ideals of universal design for learning and differentiated instruction. The authors do not focus on disability categories; they reject one-sized fits all approaches by focusing on providing strategies and tools for specific needs. However, technology is changing rapidly and any book written about technology can become obsolete quickly. Thus, one of the merits of this resource is that the text comes with an accompanying website that the authors update with new tools and advancements in the latest research.

This practical text describes the underlying principles of universal design for learning (UDL), and details tangible ways to use UDL to meet the needs of diverse students across age levels. This book has the power to equip teachers with the skills required to develop classroom goals, assessments and learning materials that use UDL. The book is cross curricular and provides examples and strategies for reading, writing, science, mathematics, history, and the arts.

4. The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind by Daniel J. Siegel, MD and Tina Payne Bryson, PhD

Although traditionally a parenting book, the principles of The Whole Brain Child are equally as valuable for teachers working with diverse learners. The book is a simple, practical resource that features twelve strategies for helping kids thrive in the face of common childhood challenges. The text hinges on the current medical and psychological understanding of child cognitive development and describes how a child’s brain is wired. The book explains how to use the understanding of a child’s brain to promote pro-social behavior in children. Drs. Siegel and Bryson also publish the The Whole-Brain Child Workbook: Practical Exercises, Worksheets and Activities to Nurture Developing Minds to help educators and parents deploy the twelve strategies.

5.Smart but Scattered: The Revolutionary “Executive Skills” Approach to Helping Kids Reach Their Potential by Peg Dawson, EdD and Richard Guare, PhD

Often learners with special needs struggle with the important executive functioning skills required to sustain focus, follow directions, complete tasks and regulate their impulses. Smart but Scattered is a great resource for both parents and teachers to help children learn the important skills of organization, time management, problem solving and coping with their emotions. The book provides simple assessment tools to help evaluate your students’ strengths and challenges accompanied by activities and strategies to help build their deficient skills.

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