A Survival Guide for New Special Educators
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More About This Title A Survival Guide for New Special Educators


What every special education teacher needs to know to survive and thrive

A Survival Guide for New Special Educators provides relevant, practical information for new special education teachers across a broad range of topic areas. Drawing on the latest research on special educator effectiveness and retention, this comprehensive, go-to resource addresses the most pressing needs of novice instructors, resource teachers, and inclusion specialists.

  • Offers research-based, classroom-tested strategies for working with a variety of special needs students
  • Covers everything from preparing for the new school year to behavior management, customizing curriculum, creating effective IEPs, and more
  • Billingsley and Brownell are noted experts in special educator training and support

This highly practical book is filled with checklists, forms, and tools that special educators can use every day to help ensure that all special needs students get the rich, rewarding education they deserve.


BONNIE S. BILLINGSLEY, Ed.D., is a professor in Teaching and Learning at Virginia Tech.

MARY T. BROWNELL, Ph.D., is a professor of Special Education and director of the CEEDAR Center at the University of Florida.

MAYA ISRAEL, Ph.D., is assistant professor of Special Education at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

MARGARET L. KAMMAN, Ph.D., is assistant scholar and project coordinator for the CEEDAR Center at the University of Florida.


The Authors v

Acknowledgments vii

Tables, Figures, and Exhibits xvii

Introduction xxi


Chapter One: Getting the Right Job 3

An Initial Priority: Find a Good Job Match 3

Steps in Your Job Search 4

The Interview Process 5

Consider the Offer 10

To Sum Up 10

What’s Next? 10

Chapter Two: Great Beginnings 11

Reality 101: What to Expect in the First Years 11

Your Challenge: Become an Accomplished and Committed Special Educator 13

Reflect on the Moral Purpose That Guides Your Work 13

Develop Knowledge about Professional Standards and Ethics 14

Learn about the Community and Key Policies and Guidelines 15

Learn More about the Content Standards for Subjects You Teach 16

Use and Refi ne Your Knowledge about Evidence-Based Practices 17

Know Your Students and Systematically Monitor Their Learning 17

Collaborate Effectively with Administrators, Colleagues, and Parents 18

Protect Instructional Time and Balance Your Responsibilities 18

Develop Resilience and Manage Stress 18

Take Initiative for Your Own Professional Learning 20

Making It Happen: Create a Network of Supports 20

To Sum Up 25

What’s Next? 25

Additional Resources 25

Chapter Three: Working with Others 26

Be an Energizer 27

Be an Effective Communicator 27

Working Through Confl icts 30

A Great Start with Parents 31

Ten Actions to Develop Positive Relationships with Parents 32

A Great Start with Administrators 35

A Great Start with Your Mentor(s) 38

A Great Start with Colleagues 42

Leading Effective Professional Meetings 44

To Sum Up 46

What’s Next? 46

Additional Resources 46

Chapter Four: Special Education Law 47

Key Laws Related to Students with Disabilities 47

Education for All Handicapped Children Act 48

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 51

Section 504 56

Americans with Disabilities Act 57

Confidentiality 58

Dealing with Legal Challenges 61

To Sum Up 63

What’s Next? 63

Additional Resources 63

Chapter Five: Developing Quality IEPs 65

The IEP Document 66

The IEP Process 66

Tips for a Great Start with IEPs 66

Tips for Developing IEP Components 67

The IEP Meeting 74

Transition Planning 81

IEP Summary Forms 83

Tips for Organizing the IEP Process 83

Practical Suggestions from Special Educators 85

To Sum Up 85

What’s Next? 86

Additional Resources 86


Chapter Six: Organizing and Managing Your Work 89

Your Many Roles and Responsibilities 90

Goals and Plans Equal Organizational Success! 92

Manage Your Time, Manage Your Tasks 96

Setting Up Your Class for Success 97

Considerations for Middle and High School Classrooms 98

The Teacher’s Desk 102

Get Ready for Your First Day of School 104

Plan for Fun and Knowledge 105

To Sum Up 110

What’s Next? 110

Additional Resources 111

Chapter Seven: Classroom and Behavior Management 112

Elizabeth Bettini

Tiered Approach to Providing Positive Behavioral Support 113

Evaluating the Intervention 136

To Sum Up 137

What’s Next? 137

Additional Resources 137

Chapter Eight: Collaboration and Co-Teaching 139

Fundamentals of Collaboration 140

Defining Characteristics for Collaboration 140

Understanding Collaboration in Varied Service-Delivery Models 140

Tips for Special Education Teachers in Collaborating for RTI 142

Collaboration in Inclusive Settings 142

Small Strategies to Make a Big Impact on Collaboration 146

Helping General Educators 147

Co-Teaching 149

The Co-Teacher Relationship 150

Characteristics Aiding in Successful Co-Teaching 154

Barriers and How to Overcome Them 154

Keeping Collaborative Records 155

To Sum Up 156

What’s Next? 157

Additional Resources 157

Chapter Nine: Supporting Your Students 158

The Student–Teacher Relationship 159

Tips for Fostering Positive Student–Teacher Relationships 159

Motivating Your Students 161

Advocating for and with Your Students 164

Culturally Responsive Teaching 166

Helping Your Students Stay Organized and Learn Responsibility 169

To Sum Up 171

What’s Next? 171

Additional Resources 171

Chapter Ten: Assessment and Knowing Your Students 172

Your State Standards and the CCSS 173

Why Test in Relationship to the Standards? 173

Educational Laws and Assessment 173

Relationship Between the Laws and Your Assessment Practices 174

Progress Monitoring and Curriculum-Based Measures 175

Formal or Standardized Tests 178

Assessment Accommodations and Adapting Classroom Tests 179

Alternative Assessments 181

Feedback and Grading 183

Assessment Considerations at the High School Level 186

To Sum Up 188

What’s Next? 189

Additional Resources 189

Chapter Eleven: Universal Design for Learning and Technology 190

Plan Engaging and Accessible Instruction through UDL 192

The Basics of UDL: Reach and Engage Your Students in Multiple Ways 192

Three Principles of UDL: Multiple Means of Representation, Action and Expression, and Engagement 193

General Hints for Implementing UDL 196

Using Instructional Technologies to Support Students with Disabilities 203

ATs to Support Students with Disabilities 207

To Sum Up 210

What’s Next? 210

Additional Resources 210


Chapter Twelve: Effective Instructional Practices and Lesson Planning 215

Planning for Effective Instruction 216

Using Effective Instruction 223

To Sum Up 232

What’s Next? 233

Additional Resources 233

Chapter Thirteen: Teaching Reading 234

A Framework for Teaching Reading 235

Phonological Awareness and Phonics (Basic Decoding) 235

Decoding Multisyllabic Words and Promoting Morphological Awareness 239

Vocabulary Instruction 241

Promoting Fluency at the Rime, Word, and Connected-Text Levels 243

Promoting Reading Comprehension 245

Special Considerations for ELLs with Learning Disabilities 248

Incorporating Technology into Reading Instruction 248

To Sum Up 250

What’s Next? 251

Additional Resources 251

Chapter Fourteen: Teaching Writing 252

Basic Skills Underlying Profi cient Writing Performance 252

Becoming an Independent Writer 255

Special Considerations for ELLs 261

Using Technology to Support Writing 262

To Sum Up 263

What’s Next? 263

Additional Resources 263

Chapter Fifteen: Teaching Mathematics 264

What Makes Math So Difficult for So Many Students? 265

Going Beyond Arithmetic to Algebra 266

Characteristics of Struggling Learners in Mathematics and General Strategies for Supporting Students 267

Instructional Math Standards 269

How Should I Teach Learners Who Have Difficulty Keeping Up with the Curriculum? 271

Instruction That Supports Students with Disabilities in Mathematics 271

What Is the Best Way to Integrate CRA into Math Instruction? 274

Metacognitive Math Strategies 277

Assessment and Feedback to Inform Mathematics Practice 278

Formal Assessment and Mathematics 281

Technology-Enhanced Mathematics Instruction 282

To Sum Up 284

What’s Next? 284

Additional Resources 284

Chapter Sixteen: Teaching Content 285

What Can You Do to Support Students with Disabilities in Learning Content? 285

What Specific Things Can You Do to Help Students with Disabilities in the Content Areas? 286

UDL and Instructional Technologies in Content Learning 292

Teaching Concepts with Content Enhancements 293

Teaching Simple Concepts 293

Complex Concepts 294

Inquiry-Based Approaches to Teaching and Learning Content 295

What Is the Relationship Between Inquiry Learning and Problem-, Project-, and Challenge-Based Learning? 299

To Sum Up 301

What’s Next? 301

Additional Resources 301

Chapter Seventeen: Teaching Students with Limited to Pervasive Intellectual Disability 303
Bree A. Jimenez and Pamela J. Mims

Who Are Your Students? 304

What to Teach 304

Why Teach Beyond Functional Skills to Students with Intellectual Disabilities 304

Assessments to Guide Curricular Planning 306

How to Teach 308

To Sum Up 321

What’s Next? 321

Additional Resources 321


Chapter Eighteen: Managing Student Health Needs 325
Pamela W. Carter

Individual Health-Care Plans and Emergency Care Plans 326

Health Conditions and Teacher Tips 326

Tourette Syndrome (TS) 341

To Sum Up 343

Additional Resources 343


Appendix A: Definitions and Resources about Disability 345

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) 347

Autism Spectrum Disorders 350

Deafness and Hearing Loss 353

Developmental Delay 355

Emotional Disturbance 356

Intellectual Disability 361

Other Health Impairment 362

Specific Learning Disability 365

Speech and Language Disorders 367

Traumatic Brain Injury 369

Visual Impairment Including Blindness 371

Appendix B: Key Special Education Cases 373

Appendix C: Assessment Vocabulary and Concepts 374

Validity and Reliability 375

Appendix D: Tips for Preparing for Observations and Evaluations 377

Appendix E: Bonus Web Content 380

Notes 383

Index 400