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Professional Organizations for Special Education Teachers

Instructor: Dana Dance-Schissel

Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.

Special education teachers fill important roles in the education system. This lesson will examine some professional organizations that aid special education teachers. We will end with a short quiz.

What is Special Education?

Sophie is a second grade student with cerebral palsy, a disability that causes mental and physical impairments. Sophie would probably find it very difficult to keep up in a traditional classroom due to her disability and may require assistance from a special education teacher.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1990 (IDEA) (a revised version of the original Education of the Handicapped Act of 1975), mandates that special needs students are entitled to receive a free and appropriate education. In other words, accommodations and modifications must be provided to special needs students in schools. This is where special education teachers come in.

A disability is a physical or mental issue that impairs normal functioning. Depending on their unique needs and the level of special education required, students with disabilities like Sophie may be placed in a traditional classroom or in a special needs classroom. Either way, most special needs students will come in contact with a teacher who is trained in special education. All 50 states in the US require special education teachers to have a college degree, and some states require teachers to have an additional certification in special education.

Now that we understand what special education is, let's take a closer look at some of the professional organization designed to support special education teachers.

Professional Organizations for Special Education Teachers

Let's say that Sophie's special education teacher has never worked with a student with cerebral palsy before. Where might that teacher go for help? A professional organization that exists to support special education teachers might just be the answer!

American Association of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD)

The AAIDD exists to support the needs of disabled individuals. One of their main practices is to provide support and educational opportunities for special education teachers. Educators pay an annual fee to access publications, networking opportunities, and continuing education classes. AAIDD also offers a certification program for educators who want to specialize in special education.

Sophie's teacher might be able to attend a webinar through AAIDD that will help her understand the unique challenges faced by students with cerebral palsy, or access an e-book on cerebral palsy through their online library.

National Association of Special Education Teachers (NASET)

The National Association of Special Education Teachers is different from AAIDD in that it's sole purpose is supporting educators in the special needs field. Membership provides a wealth of information for teachers ranging from training programs to relevant laws. They also offer recognition and awards for excellence to special education teachers making a difference.

Sophie's teacher might be able to join an online group of teachers through NASET who have experience in educating students with cerebral palsy. Through NASET, Sophie's teacher would have access to many different publications, blogs, podcasts, webinars, and continuing education opportunities. She could even download a smartphone app they created as a quick way to access pertinent resources!

Council for Exceptional Children (CEC)

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