What can special educators do to support students with the greatest needs both academically and behaviorally in the general education classroom?

Question: What can special educators do to support students with the greatest needs both academically and behaviorally in the general education classroom?

Answer: Well, I think that special education teachers need to remember that general education teachers and staff consider them to be the experts in the area of students with special needs and also for children who maybe have not been classified as needing special education but who have difficulties in school both academically and behaviorally. And that puts a very particular responsibility, I think, on the special education teachers to keep a repertoire of special tools, and [what] we call tricks in their bags, so that they can pull them out and offer them to teachers and staff when there is a need. I think the special education teachers get a lot of those through their prep in universities, but they need to maintain a current level of knowledge by using websites such as the one for National Center on Intensive Intervention (www.intenesiveintervention.org) and other websites that have tools and list strategies. They also can do that by being involved in their professional association such as the Council for Exceptional Children. When I was a teacher, I really loved the Teaching Exceptional Children book. It was a magazine that came out that had the day-to-day, research-based strategies that were told often by teachers to teachers. And then, of course, there are the journals that are definitely research-based. But it is not just having those evidence-based tools, it’s also developing the communication skills that you can work as a team member with the general education staff and help them understand how to use those and individualize them for the student. You can use particular strategies and tools that we have in our bag of tricks, but if you don’t communicate them well — in such a way that the teacher can feel confident to come back to you and ask for ways to tweak the issue or tweak the strategy— then they don’t listen to you. So you have to be a team member at your school. And that is the number one thing a special education teacher must establish, is that they are a part of the team, because we are all responsible for all children.

Developed By: 
National Center on Intensive Intervention