The Ultimate Guide to Special Needs Teaching: 100+ Resources and Links

Whether you have an entire class of students with special needs, or you’ve welcomed a student with a disability into your traditional classroom, this massive list of resources will help you research different disorders and conditions, review special lesson plans, and find the support you need to work with your students and help them succeed.

Blind Students

For instructing blind and visually impaired students, turn to this list of resources for teaching math, translating texts into braille and more.

  1. Teaching Math to Visually Impaired Students: Learn all about Nemeth Code and different strategies for teaching the visually impaired how to solve and decode math problems.
  2. National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped: Use this resource to find books in braille and audio books.
  3. Strategies for Teaching Students with Vision Impairments: This guide from West Virginia University helps teachers who aren’t used to teaching blind or visually impaired students understand what kinds of words to use and which tools and lab equipment to use in class.
  4. National Braille Press: Browse the bookstore, have your class join the Children’s Book Club and find textbooks and tests for your visually impaired students here. The NBP can translate study guides, music and worksheets into braille.
  5. Badger Accessibility Services: This resource from the University of Wisconsin-Madison lists places to find enlarged text books e-text to voice conversion teaching materials and audio materials.
  6. Adil’s World: This is the website of a blind Moroccan student who hopes to finish school despite his disability. Search his site for resources and inspiring stories.
  7. eSight Careers Network: Encourage high school or college students to visit this site, which is full of resources about disability employment issues and tips for organizing a job search and finding a job you want.
  8. The Hadley School for the Blind: Teachers who are new to instructing visually impaired students can take correspondence courses from The Hadley School in braille and more.
  9. Lesson Plans and Teaching Tips: The National Center for blind Youth in Science lists two lesson plans for teaching science and math to blind students.
  10. Visual Impairment Resources: Secondary education teachers will find a major list of instructional resources for their students here.

Deaf Students

Learn about the importance of deaf culture and discover intriguing lesson plans for deaf and hard of hearing students in this list.

  1. American Sign Language Browser: Learn to communicate with deaf students by using this sign language tool from the Michigan State University website.
  2. Educating Children Who Are Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing: TeacherVision’s article goes over the auditory-oral approach to teaching hard-of-hearing students.
  3. Literary Resources for Teaching Deaf Children: Find deaf school products, deaf literacy websites, and literacy articles here.
  4. How to Become a Teacher of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students: This guide goes over why deaf education is such a specialized form of teaching and different places where teachers of deaf students can find employment.
  5. Strategies for Teaching Students with Hearing Impairments: Visit this site for an extensive list of tips and ideas for communicating effectively with your deaf or hard of hearing students.
  6. Methods for Teaching Deaf Children to Read: Read this list of basic methods for teaching your deaf students how to read in this article.
  7. Deaf Culture: Whether you are teaching young students or adults, understanding deaf culture ideals and attitudes is extremely important.
  8. DeafEd Teacher Preparation Programs: Get information on deaf education, applying to an undergraduate deaf and hard of hearing or communication disorders program and more on this website.
  9. Modern Deaf Communication, Inc.: Resources on this site include deaf jobseeker tips, information about the Hearing-Deaf Conference, using the writing communication method, using special technology and sign language.
  10. Ka’lalau’s Korner: This blogger is deaf, has deaf parents, deaf siblings, and many other deaf relatives. Read his strong opinions on ASL and deaf schools here.

ESL Students

ESL classes don’t always include students with disabilities, but teaching English as a second language presents many unique challenges for instructors, which is why we’ve included ESL students on this list.

  1. ESL Flow: Browse games, teacher tools, icebreakers, and other lesson plans for ESL students at the elementary, pre-intermediate and intermediate levels.
  2. Teaching Children ESL: Access rhyming games and other lesson plans just for children in ESL classes here.
  3. School of Teaching ESL: Visit the TESOL website for information on becoming a certified ESL teacher.
  4. ESL Classroom Activities: Get lesson plans for writing American business letters and e-mails, using movies and music to learn English and role-playing exercises.
  5. Appropriate Classroom Materials: Consider the difference between using authentic dialogues and scripted dialogues by reading this article.
  6. ESL Lesson Plans and Resources: Find activities for adult education, using conversation questions in class and utilizing the CNN Newsroom ESL program.
  7. Breaking News English: ESL lesson plans are added nearly everyday on this site, based on breaking news stories.
  8. ESL Worksheet Generator: Choose to create a sorting worksheet, scrambled word worksheet or matching pairs worksheet for your ESL students by using this tool.
  9. 20 ESL Teaching Tips: From pronunciation to reading aloud to speaking with other students in English, these tips are a great help to ESL teachers.
  10. Lesson Plans: This collection of nearly 30 different resources links to websites for using flashcards, building your own lesson plans, conversation questions, online handouts, and speaking activities for ESL.

Autistic Students

Autistic students need highly structured learning environments in order to succeed. Learn how to design a classroom and curriculum that can accommodate those students here.

  1. TEACCH Autism Program: Use this resource to help you understand the effective methods for teaching autistic students and why they need a structured environment.
  2. Learning (Dis) Abilities: Autism: Access games, imitative therapy exercises and more helpful resources for autistic students here.
  3. Schools Strive to Meet Needs of Autistic Students: This NPR story chronicles how public schools are making drastic changes to accommodate autistic students and provide effective educational activities and environments for them.
  4. A Better, Much Better Way of Teaching Autistic Kids: The Autism Diva is also a psychology major in the University of California system, and her post outlines the ways in which autism ed. needs a makeover.
  5. Considerations for Social Interaction with Autistic Students: This article asks teachers to be sensitive to "local social interaction norms," establish reasonable social interaction expectations and prioritize social interaction skills when teaching autistic children.
  6. Teaching Strategies and Pastoral Care: This detailed guide goes over strategies for teaching and accommodating reading comprehension, concept development, and cognitive flexibility.
  7. Autism Research Institute: Stay on top of the latest research findings and therapies for autism at this official website.
  8. Teaching Autistic Children to Safely Cross the Road Using Virtual Reality: Medical News Today reports on a research study that used virtual reality technology to improve autistic students’ understanding of the real world.
  9. Imaginative Play Therapy for Autism: Here is another story about how technology can keep autistic students engaged in educational activities.
  10. The National Autistic Society – Lesson Guide: Teachers can find resources for brainstorming, group work and memory games and sensory games here.

Mentally Challenged Students

From downs syndrome to sex education for mentally retarded students, this list includes all kinds of resources for communicating with and stimulating mentally challenged children and adults.

  1. Community Involvement for the Handicapped: This lesson plan was submitted by a speech pathologist, who "uses photographs of foods from restaurant menus, grocery items, and other objects from the community environment of her severely mentally and/or physically handicapped students to help them learn to communicate their needs and behave appropriately in public places."
  2. Teaching the Life Skills: With some mentally challenged students, you may have to prioritize your lessons based on teaching the life skills, like identifying prescription drug labels, warning signs and traffic signs, using a phonebook and understanding how and when to use toasters, microwaves, TVs, radios and stoves.
  3. Sex Education for Physically, Emotionally and Mentally Challenged Youth: Learn the myths and realities of sex and sex education for those with different disabilities at this website.
  4. Useful Methods for Teaching Mentally Retarded Students: Discover new methods for academic training, applied behavior analysis and different educational or treatment settings here.
  5. Teaching Mentally Retarded Adults to Time-Manage in a Vocational Setting: If you’re teaching high school or adult students, you will want to instruct them on ways to manage themselves in the workplace.
  6. Teaching Down’s Syndrome Students: This guide includes links and tips for understanding important issues like self-esteem, intellectual abilities and behavior management.
  7. Social Policy and Mental Retardation: Learn how the United States has started to accept mentally retarded individuals through legislation, education programs and treatment centers.
  8. Child Mental Health: This website has advice and tips for helping children with all types of mental diseases and disorders, including anorexia, trauma, brain injury, ADD, and more.
  9. Toys for Special Needs Children: Use this directory to search for toys, technology and learning devices for your special needs student or child.
  10. Handling Your Child’s Mental Health Issues: Learn ways to help mentally disabled children relax and boos their self esteem here.

Physically Challenged Students

College professors and K-12 instructors will find information about accommodating wheelchairs and limited mobility students in this list, as well as correct behavior when hosting a student with epilepsy.

  1. Teaching Students with Mobility Impairments: These very basic tips help instructors understand how to accommodate students in wheelchairs and those with other mobility limitations.
  2. General Info. About Cerebral Palsy: If you are teaching a student with cerebral palsy, learn more about his or her condition here so that you can make the right kinds of accommodations.
  3. Strategies for Teaching Students With Epilepsy: Learn what appropriate action to take if your student has a seizure in class.
  4. Teaching Students with Physical Disabilities: From paralyzed students to students with sickle cell disease or muscular dystrophy, this guide will help you become more aware of your classroom environment and testing techniques.
  5. Teaching Students with Hand-Function Limitations: These students will need to find new ways to take notes, make themselves visible in class and complete assignments. Learn how to work with them here.
  6. Tips for Working with Students with Severe Handicaps: Writer Sue Watson outlines different physical handicaps and how to accommodate each one in the classroom.
  7. Disability Access: Are We Getting There?: This article considers the progress of schools to accommodate students with disabilities since the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.
  8. Tips for Working with Students in Wheelchairs: Learn appropriate behavior when teaching, disciplining, and praising students in wheelchairs.
  9. Special Education Services: A Manual of Policies, Procedures and Guidelines: Make sure your classroom is comfortable and accessible for students with mobility limitations or physical disabilities.

General Materials and Resources for Special Needs Students

These resources and links provide information and tips for teaching all kinds of special needs students. Get connected to lesson plan ideas, art projects and official websites.

  1. BookShare: This library offers free memberships for K-12, higher education and adult education classes or students with "print disabilities."
  2. Art for All: This art project lesson plan was submitted by a teacher with special needs students, ranging from children with muscular dystrophy to spina bifida.
  3. Gentle Teaching: Learn the Gentle Teaching technique of learning with children and adults with special needs, including teaching the student to feel safe, feel engaged, and to feel unconditionally loved.
  4. Will Photographs Increase Time on Task in Adaptive Physical Education?: Take pictures of your students as they try to complete certain tasks. Once they have progressed, show them the pictures from when they first started to take on the project, and they’ll be able to see how far they’ve come.
  5. Knowing Survival Skills: Teaching your special needs students safety rules is exceedingly important. Use this lesson plan for creative ideas.
  6. Special Education: This page includes lesson plans for different life skills, including color recognition, understanding respect and appropriate behavior, thinking skills and more.
  7. Academic Accommodations for Students with Disabilities: Tools for Teaching Site, sponsored by the University of California, Berkeley lists several strategies for working with students who have learning, "hidden," or physical disabilities.
  8. Council for Exceptional Children: This website is "the voice and vision of special education," so you’ll find lots of resources about helping your special ed students succeed, as well as support and advice for you.
  9. National Association for Adults with Special Learning Needs: This official website has information on conferences, special webinars and articles that discuss different adult education programs and learning disabilities.
  10. The Classroom: Special Education Department: Here you’ll find valuable resources connecting you to various teaching strategies and tips and understanding students with learning disabilities, physical disabilities and more.

Inviting Special Needs Students Into a Traditional Classroom

Teachers who need to strike a balance between teaching non-disabled students and students with a disability or special need will find help in this list.

  1. Preventing Accidental Injury – Special Needs: From monitoring children with ADHD to understanding fire and toy safety guidelines for special needs students, this resource will help you keep order in the classroom.
  2. PD*Poll: Students Vote Autistic 5-Year Old Out of Class: In May of 2008, a 5-year old autistic student was ousted from his classroom when his teacher let the other kids "banish" him after vocally abusing him and calling him "annoying" and "disgusting."
  3. Services In School for Children With Special Needs: What Parents Need to Know: This is also an excellent resource for teachers who need to know the laws and evaluation methods that affect and serve children with disabilities in traditional school settings.
  4. Including Students With Disabilities in General Education Classrooms: Get great tips for accommodating disabled students physically, socially and academically.
  5. Teaching for Inclusion: Diversity in the College Classroom: Chapter 13 in this guide for the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill addresses students with special physical or medical needs.
  6. CanTeach: Access numerous resources and links designed to help teachers learn more about students with physical disabilities, learning disabilities, eating disorders, ADD and more.
  7. Inclusion of Students with Special Needs: Teaching and Learning: Find links to resources for effective classroom instruction and more on this page.
  8. Integrating Children With Disabilities into Preschool: Read this article to learn how to administer appropriate programs, lessons and structure in preschool.
  9. Group Activities to Include Students with Special Needs: This book documents different strategies for helping your special needs students develop "social interactive skills."
  10. Examining How the Inclusion of Disabled Students into the General Classroom May Affect Non-Disabled Students: Consider how your traditional students will respond to disabled students in this report.

Technology and Special Needs Students

Discover the ways that technology can help your special needs students develop and learn more effectively.

  1. Barrier Free Education: Math and science teachers learn how to integrate computers and lab equipment into their classrooms to help special needs students learn.
  2. Freedom Scientific: Visit this site for information on learning systems technology and products for the blind or visually impaired.
  3. Accessible Web Page Design: Resources: This page explains that "websites…can be designed to meet the needs of all people, including those with disabilities." Consider building a website that gives your special needs students the ability to interact with their lessons.
  4. Assistive Technology: Discover how different software programs and other technology can aid your special needs students as they learn.
  5. The Accessible Classroom: This CD is designed to "help educators to plan and deliver instruction through assistive and instructional technologies and universal design for learning strategies."
  6. Assistive Technology and Inclusion: This report claims that disabled students who can participate in class with appropriate technology tools will feel more included.
  7. The Alliance for Technology Access: The ATA is a network that is devoted to making assistive technology more available to children and adults with disabilities.
  8. Closing the Gap: Read articles and learn about new assistive technology products and systems for disabled children and adults here.
  9. Assistive Technology for Children who have Cerebral Palsy: Augmentation Communication Devices: If you teach a student with cerebral palsy, read this report to educate yourself on the different technologies available that will help you communicate with that child.
  10. Special Needs and Technology: Teacher Tap lists several links for finding more information about web accessibility issues, assistive technology resources for teachers, and more.

Terminally Ill Students

Learn ways to accommodate and communicate with students who have cancer, AIDS and other terminal illnesses here.

  1. Teaching Students with Chronic Illness or Pain: This list has tips for college instructors who may need to make accommodations for students when organizing field trips, giving exams, or setting policies for make-up work.
  2. Cystic Fibrosis at School: This excellent guide for teachers gives an overview of CF while providing tips for accommodating extra coughing, medications, weight issues and privacy.
  3. Teaching STudents with Other Disabilities: From AIDS to cancer to seizures, this guide has resources and tips for teaching students with other special needs.
  4. Teaching Learners with Special Needs: Check this blog for an unending list of resources for helping students with various special needs, including terminal illness, succeed at school.
  5. Educational Needs of the Terminally Ill Student: Access this article to learn about school reentry strategies and evaluation for terminally ill students.
  6. Scholarships Available for Children of the Terminally Ill: Encourage your student to apply for one of these scholarships, which would help make college possible even for a family burdened by major hospital bills.
  7. Elementary Students Show Support for Their Terminally Ill Classmate: Get your entire class involved if your terminally ill student has to return to the hospital and miss work and friends.

Teacher Support

Teachers of special needs students also need support, so turn to this list when you need help dealing with stress and understanding things from your students’ perspectives.

  1. Our Kids: This website is devoted to the parents and caregivers of special needs children. Find teaching resources and support services here.
  2. Coping With Stress in the Special Education Classroom: Learn how to set realistic expectations and distinguish your personal life from your classroom duties when teaching special ed.
  3. Being at Ease with Handicapped Children: This article helps teachers understand when and how to give special treatment, assistance, and discipline.
  4. National Toll-Free Numbers: Consider calling one of these national hotlines or support numbers if you need help understanding your students’ disability. Numbers listed are for organizations like the CDC National AIDS Clearinghouse, Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, Cancer Information and Counseling Line and others.
  5. Pro Teacher! Special Education: Visit this forum to post messages, ask for support or read inspiring stories from other special education teachers.
  6. Internet Special Education Resources: Learn about ADHD assessment, assistive technology, nonprofit groups, and special needs travel here.
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