Tag Archives | special education

Memory Aids: Visuals

One thing that many special needs children struggle with is remembering what they are taught in school.  If you think about it, the majority of school involves recalling and using information you have learned in the past.  To excel in math, you must first memorize your numbers then understand and remember addition and subtraction before you can move on to multiplication and division.  Almost every subject requires the ability to build upon former knowledge.  So if a child struggles to remember things, it just makes school that much harder for him.  There are several ways you can help your child remember things easier.  The first memory aid is the use of visuals.

Why Visuals?

A visual is any  image or picture that goes along with what your child is trying to remember.  Visuals can be especially helpful for a child with a speech or language problem.  Every person remembers things that they see better than words they hear or read.  How many times have you been able to picture a person, but not remember their name?  For special needs students putting a picture with a concept can give them a mental attachment to the thought which will help them remember it.

Using Visuals

You can use visuals in many different ways as you work with your child.

  • Printed pictures – As you teach or review subjects like history or science, find pictures online or in books that apply to what you are covering.  You could even print out some of the pictures and use them in activities.  For example, if you want your child to remember the main events of the Civil War, print out a picture for each event.  Then have your child practice putting those pictures in the correct order.
  • Child-drawn pictures – Let your child draw small doodle type pictures next to notes on the information they are learning.  Remember the pictures don’t necessarily have to make sense to you, just to the child.  If you want your child to practice their multiplication facts, you could let them doodle a different pictures next to each fact while they are studying.  When you quiz them next, reminding them of the doodle when they forget a fact may help them remember it.
  • Cut up words – Old magazines are a great resource for usable visuals.  Your child could cut out pictures about what you are learning, but they could also cut out the printed words and use them.  For example, if you are studying prepositions in English, have your child make a preposition collage.  Let them cut out all the examples of prepositions they can find in a magazine and glue them onto a large sheet of paper.  Hang the paper somewhere they can see it often.

Putting ideas into picture form can make the difficult task of remember information much easier for students that struggle with language.  In the next post, we will discuss using motions as a memory aid.

How do you use visuals to help your child recall information?

Photo by:  studio tdes


Helping Children Deal With Anger

Anger can be a real issue for children with special needs.  Whether your child is on the autism spectrum, has a reading disability, or struggles to pay attention because of ADD, frustration and anger can cause them to want to quit on their schoolwork.  It is important to teach your child to deal with their anger in healthy ways.  They may always feel angry about circumstances and events in their life, but they can learn to manage the anger instead of acting on it.

Take a Break

One of the best ways to keep anger under control is to take a break from what is causing the anger.  You could teach your child to walk away from a situation and go to a quiet place (their room, the kitchen table, or a certain spot in their classroom).  Teach them to stay in this spot until they feel calmer.  Remember though that this is something you want them to learn to do on their own.  It is not a punishment.  You can encourage your child to walk away, but don’t try to force them to stay in the chosen spot.  If a special needs child feels like he is being punished, the anger will probably get worse, not better.  You can also ask your child’s teacher if your child can take a break from a subject that is frustrating them and go back to it later in the day.

Use Their Words

One problem that can cause anger is the inability for some children to put their thoughts and feelings into words.  Imagine how frustrated you would be if you were trying to talk, but no one could understand you or you didn’t know how to tell someone what you were thinking or feeling.  During times when your child is not angry, have them practice using their words to talk about their feelings.  Role play possible situations that would upset them and have them tell you in words how they would feel or what they would tell their teacher about the situation.  It could also help to give them a special feelings journal.  Tell them that they can write in the journal anytime they want or about anything they want.  Encourage them to write down things that bother them throughout the day.  In addition to just writing in the journal, you could look at the journal with your child every night and talk with him about what bothered him during the day.

Think From the Perspective of Others

Many special needs students have a hard time putting themselves in the place of others.  Because they tend to focus only on themselves, it can be difficult for them to understand things like why a child refused to give up a favorite toy or why they didn’t get to use the blue marker first.  When you talk with your child about things that have made them angry, try to get them to see what made the other child act the way they did.  (You may not be able to do this until your child has calmed down quite a bit.)  Ask your child what he would have done if he was the other child.

Anger is a real problem for some children, but with your help your child can learn to control his anger.  What other strategies do you use when teaching your children to manage their anger?

Photo by: greg westfall


Sometimes, it’s good to be a little different.

Sometimes, it’s good to be a little different. We know that you, as a parent of an exceptional child, have your hands full.  We know how special your child is and also how special you are as a parent. You have been given a unique gift, one that causes a lot of work, a lot of focus, but mostly a lot of love.

We wanted to share this free poster with you so you can remind yourselves how fortunate you are to be living the life you have been given.  No-one can do what you do for your child.  No-one knows the real effort it takes for you to mentally, physically, and emotionally support your child, the rest of your family, and yourself.   Take a break for just a few minutes to download this free poster, print it out (or send it out to be printed) and put it where you can see it everyday.   Or… use it as a screen saver on your computer or smart phone.

Enjoy the free poster with much love from

*Click on the photo below to download the full size poster!*

Be Different


The Impact of Common Core Standards on Special Education

Last summer the federal government moved away from the educational standards provided in No Child Left Behind into a new set of standards called Common Core Standards.  Common Core Standards, commonly referred to as CCS, provide a basis for standards at each grade level for reading, language arts, and math that are to be followed by all states.  Previously, each state was able to determine the standards, how they would be implemented in the classroom, and how they would be assessed at the end of the year to provide the data to the state and federal government to show academic progress.  The rigor and standards for each grade level were not consistent across the states.  No Child Left Behind left room for much interpretation including as to how special needs students fit into the academic puzzle.  An additional document released with the standards addresses the needs for special education students and adaptations.


CCS’s Impact on Special Education

The Council for Exceptional Children has an informative article about how the change to CCS will impact the special education classroom.   The CCS will be the same across the grade levels for special needs students as it is for the general education classrooms.  The goal is to hold all students to high expectations of learning gains based on college and career readiness.  However, for special needs students there are specific adaptations, accommodations, and assistive technology provided for students to be able to attain those high standards.  The documentation provides information that struggling students should be provided with interventions and that the standards should be read in a broad manner that allows for adaptations to help students with special needs to achieve mastery of the standards at the highest level possible.  The broad interpretation opens the way for changes that can be determined at the state and local level.

This change in standards with increased levels of mastery for special needs students will come with some growing pains.  Special education teachers, along with general education teachers who teach special needs students in the general education setting, will need to be provided professional development opportunities to learn about scaffolding ideas, helping struggling students meet high standards, and how to meet the needs of special education students in the general education classroom.   The states, districts, schools, and teachers are challenged to find the means that works best in their environment to teach the students to gain mastery in those standards that are outlined.

Reading & Language Arts Standards

The Reading and Language Arts Standards provided in the CCS are not solely for the language arts and reading teachers.  The standards promote literacy across all classes.  There are specific standards for reading in history, science, technology, health, and mathematics.  Each grade level is broken down into various higher level categories like reading, writing, speaking and listening, and language standards.  Then, it is broken down into grade-specific standards that help to achieve the goal of college and career readiness.

Math Standards

The CCS Math Standards focus on the students being able to understand math rather than just solve equations.  Ideas like understanding the problem, reasoning, and modeling are integrated into the standards.  The math standards do not directly address the accommodations for students who are struggling or special needs students except for the fact that they should be provided access to the high-level of standards with accommodations or assistive technology as needed.  The standards are broken down into clusters and domains to outline the various mathematical concepts that the students should learn at each grade level.

Article By Laura Ketcham

Picture By hashmil

Free Teacher Resources | Special Education by MangoMon by MangoMon


AbleData – Resource for Assistive Technology for Students

AbleData is a website that provides data for users to find information about a very wide variety of assistive technology.  AbleData is sponsored by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), which is part of the US Department of Education.


The Products Page

The Products page is the heart of this site.  Users can search for assistive technology resources that can help students based on a particular need.  This site provides 20 broad categories like daily living, walking, communication, or mobility.  After selecting a major category, sub categories appear with various assistive technology options.  The options are links to learn more information about the assistive technology.  For example, let’s say you have a student who is having difficulty moving around the room.  You can select mobility as the main category and then see a variety of options like carts, manual wheel chairs, scooters, powered wheel chairs, sport wheel chairs, and accessories.  When you select a link, there will be a brief synopsis of the assistive technology device, the approximate cost, and vendors for the specific product.  This information can then be used to make suggestions to the IEP team, administrators, or even the parents.

The Products page also has a classified section where users can post either re-sales of assistive technology or want ads for needed assistive technology.  All of the process is screened through AbleData.

The Resources Page

The Resources page includes information such as information centers, conferences and companies that can help users to learn more about assistive technology.   This information can provide teachers with a wealth of resources for various disabilities, services, technology, professional development, and other resources.  You could use this page to find out information about the largest Assistive Technology Conference (ATIA) that is being held this week in Orlando.

The Library Page

The library contains three sections:  publications, literature and news.  The Publications page includes fact sheets and consumer guides about the various products that they provide information for on their products page.  This page also contains links with recent articles written from the National Institute for Rehabilitation Engineering.  The Literature page includes a search box and list to find recent articles, books, and publications about assistive technology.  I found this information very useful to learn more about the current trends of assistive technology.  The News You Can Use page is very similar to a blog about assistive technology.  Posts are made every few weeks including links to various resources, surveys, conferences, or other hot topics about disabilities and assistive technology.

My AbleData Account

If you create a free AbleData account, you are able to save the assistive technology devices that you would need to access again either to share with school staff members or parents, or for your future review.

AbleData is a great resource for all individuals who are involved in working with individuals with disabilities.  It can help to provide you with the most current assistive technology trends and application information.

Article By Laura Ketcham

Free Teacher Resources | Special Education by MangoMon by MangoMon


Additional Special Education Blogs

Over the past year, many individuals including teachers, parents, professors, and special education students have taken the time to post comments on the MangoMon blog.  Many of these individuals are also bloggers themselves.  On their own time, they write to share their knowledge, provide tips and tricks, along with valuable online resources to spread their knowledge to the Internet community.  I have read and followed many of these sites and have found them insightful in providing meaningful ideas and resources for use in my own classroom.  Below you will find an annotated list of a few of the blogs who are also readers of this blog.


Love That Max

Love That Max is a blog written by Ellen Seidman, a mother whose son has Cerebral Palsy.  She shares her son’s story from the very beginning of her pregnancy to the current day via her blog.  She also includes various posts about current special education topics and trends along with making connections with her friends, family, and readers.  Some of the posts are light-hearted and fun – cute trials and tribulations of raising kids. Other posts are inspirational and informative providing readers with ideas and feedback about raising a child with special needs.  Be aware however, some of the posts will make you cry, especially the first series of posts that allows readers to relive her experiences of her son’s struggles.  This blog gets a lot of hits and comments which make the conversation on going and also a great place to make PLN connections.

Lillie’s Pad

Lillie’s Pad is a blog resource for special education uses, tips and tricks, and other resources for the iPad and iPhone.  This blog is written by a father, Kevin, who is inspired by his daughter Lillie who has cerebral palsy and CBI.  His posts are short, sweet, and to the point. In the past few weeks, he has also shared video of his daughter using various apps on the iPad to communicate and learn.  He also shares resources like videos, links, articles, and reviews about apps (and other technology) that can be used to help special education students learn and communicate.  Through Kevin’s blog, I came across a blog resource he enjoys reading called Teaching Learners with Multiple Needs.  This blog is updated by a special needs teacher.  Recent posts on this blog include using switches with iPods, learning through smelling, and iPads for communication.

Teachers at Risk

Teachers at Risk is a blog I came upon while searching and reading through the blogs above.   This blog is written by a special education teacher in Ontario named Elona Hartjes.  She shares her tips  along with her daily highs and lows as a special education high school teacher.  Her blog really resonated with me and the struggles and triumphs that I have gone through during a challenging school year.  Her insightful posts include her differentiation of instruction, raising the bar with student (and teacher) expectations, and rants and raves about the day-to-day realities of teaching (that you may not always be able to find written honestly through a public blog.)  This is definitely a site to check out for high school special education teachers.

Do you have any other favorite blogs that you follow?  Are you a regular reader of the MangoMon blog that also writes a blog?  Feel free to comment!

Article By Laura Ketcham

Free Teacher Resources | Special Education by MangoMon by MangoMon

Picture By Bombardier


Tools for Teaching a Sensitive Subject – Health and Grooming

eaching 7thgrade is definitely one of the most difficult grades to teach.  This is typically the time when students are going through many changes in their lives.  These students aren’t the babies in the middle school anymore, but they aren’t getting ready to head off to high school either.  They are ‘stuck’ in the middle and they are going through many changes; hormonal changes, body changes, emotional changes, and behavioral changes.  One day they love their friends, the next day they hate their friends.  One day the girls love boys, the next day boys have cooties again.  One day they want to be the class clown, the next day they want to be the teachers’ pet.  Through all of these changes, there is one major necessary and sensitive subject to talk to students about – hygiene habits.


Health Class Essentials

Typically the 7th grade science teacher at my school holds a week long lesson around this time of year discussing these exact changes.  This is centered around a unit on Health and Nutrition.  She discusses not only the changes that take place during puberty, nutrition, and exercise, but also the sensitive subject of items as brushing teeth twice a day, brushing hair, taking showers every day, washing hands, and most importantly, the use of deodorant.  Most typically, the students then go home and continue the discussion with the parents to make any needed changes and updates to their morning health and beauty routines.

These subjects that not only need to be covered with tweens, but it is also an important subject to cover with special needs students of all ages.  If kids learn the habits when they are younger, and learn the different changes and necessities as they age, it will make socialization and ‘growing up’ a little bit easier.  Students who do not learn these skills typically get picked on with hurtful comments and during the day at school teachers and other students hear those famous phrases “I don’t want to sit next to him, he smells” or “her breath stinks, I don’t want to work on the project with her.”

Life Skills Lessons & Activities

For special education students, this topic is usually covered in a unit or lesson on life skills.  A great way to start off the discussion for students to learn these health and grooming skills is through the use of communication cards.  Students who are non-verbal will have these cards (either physical cards or digital) to help them communicate.  You can pull out the specific skills you want to cover to spring board the conversation.  Another way to approach this subject is by having guest speakers like doctors and dentists to come in and show them various products to use, or when possible, to model how to do some of the various grooming skills.  They may even be able to provide samples of items like toothpaste or deodorant.  A good guide that I read on how to teach life skills to special needs students on a site called How To Do Things.

Another great resource for kids to learn about this topic is through the Teens Health Site.  This site is written specifically for teens and tells them what they want to know, in their ‘lingo’, about the changes they go through from being kids to teenagers.  Two adaptations on this page that were really great for special needs and ESOL students is that the page has links so that all of the pages on the site can be read aloud to the student and they also have Spanish translations!  One idea to incorporate using this site in the classroom is to have the students work in small groups to research one main concept and then create a presentation on the topic to share with the other students.  They could make something like a PowerPoint or a video to cover the topic.  They projects could even have a ‘fun’ twist by having them make infomercial-style presentations where they first cover the topic and then they can ‘sell’ a product that can help solve the problem.  For example, if one group is covering the topic of why we sweat, they could discuss the topic in science terms, and then ‘sell’ the solution, which would be deodorant or perfume sprays.

There are many different ways to teach about health and hygiene topics.   It is a sensitive, but important topic to cover for all ages of students.

Other Online Resources to Teach about Health & Hygiene

Article By Laura Ketcham

Picture By sylvar

Free Teacher Resources | Special Education by MangoMon by MangoMon


Strategies for Educating EH and SED Students

Teaching students classified as Emotionally Handicapped (EH) or Seriously Emotionally Disturbed (SED) in the inclusive classroom setting has been one of the most challenging experiences of my teaching career.  Statistically this group of students makes up only 8% of all of the disabilities under IDEA, however 80% of the students labeled as EH or SED are male students.  EH and SED students have difficulty with displaying appropriate behaviors and emotions, including facets of depression, aggression, withdrawal or other behaviors that may be disruptive or distracting to other students in the classroom.  These behaviors or actions have contributed to the EH or SED student often being academically unsuccessful.



Following many of the accommodations on the Individualize Education Plan is a starting place for helping these students be successful in class.  The accommodations that I have worked with previously include setting specific classroom rules and expectations directly for the student, and creating a preventative discipline plan.  For younger students, following a card based system like the “Stop Light Game” (green for great, yellow for warning, and red for stop) is one behavior strategy that helps students to visually see their behaviors in the classroom and it is a quick way to modify the behavior.  If the student is on red at the end of the day a consequence should be set in place.  Working together with the parents to use a similar system at home helps the student to be aware of their behaviors and the consequences that go with the behavior, both good and bad.

“The Good Student Game” is another positive preventative discipline option.  This game works great with younger and older students.   Students work in pairs during class to monitor each other’s behavior.  The teacher will indicate certain points during the class period when they evaluate each other’s behavior.  This can be done through a simple card with a check yes or no or percentages (example on the link above) which is then reviewed at the end of the class.

Get to Know the Student & Planning Ahead

Getting to know the student who is EH or SED is one of the most important aspects in helping the student to manage behaviors and to help them be academically successful.  This way, as a teacher, I know what the triggers both positive and negative behavior in a student.  This way you can plan the best approach for dealing with situations like incomplete homework, not performing well on a test, tattle tales, emotional shutdowns, and the like.  Using simple back-to-school style ice breakers will help in the “getting to know you “process.

After getting to know the student very well, this will help you to plan ahead for your lessons, activities, assessments, and tasks such as planning for the flow of the class schedule.  Planning ahead for group assignments, buddy pairs, classroom seating, ways of including the student, and time management can help the class run smoothly.  This also means having a plan ahead of time for when the EH or SED student has an outburst or withdrawal period. Other students need to understand that when the student is in withdrawal that the student may not want to be comforted or touched and may prefer to be left alone.  Students may also need a ‘cool off’ period where they go to use the restroom or to get a drink of water at the water fountain.  If a student has an outburst, the teacher has to have a plan to remove the other students from any harm (like a flying chair or fists).  Planning ahead may also include making academic changes to lesson plans, worksheets, tests, or quizzes.  There are many ways to assess mastery of content and lessons, test questions, or assignments may be modified based on the student’s learning style.  The teacher may adapt tests for special need students based on Bloom’s Taxonomy., for example, a well written multiple choice question may be as effective is assessing mastery as a short answer question.  Checklists are a great way to help to in preparing and planning ahead.

What other suggestions do you have in helping EH and SED students to be behaviorally and academically successful?  Feel free to share your tips, tricks, and links by commenting below.

Article By Laura Ketcham

Picture By woodleywonderworks

Free Teacher Resources | Special Education by MangoMon by MangoMon


Understanding the Plays – Interpreters for Students who are Deaf

A California high school is bringing a new aspect into their sports department.

taft high school

At Taft High School, in Woodlands Hills, sign language interpreters are being provided for the students who are deaf and are participating in football, basketball, cross country and track for the school.

For the students who are deaf, these interpreters have made being part of a team even more special. These interpreters make it easier for the athletes to participate in team sports, communicate with both their coaches and teammates and be more included as a member of the team. The students at the school have been very welcoming for those who are deaf. Some have even picked up on some of the sign language and have started to use it to help communicate with the other team members.

Out of the eight sign language interpreters at the school, three have agreed to work alongside of the student athletes. They stay by the students’ sides during team games, practices and meets. Some students, who are a part of the school’s varsity teams, are a huge addition to the school’s athletics. Their differences are not an obstacle in any way. Being a part of the team shows how dedicated and hard-working they are.

These students have the opportunity to show to all the other students that just because they have a disability, does not mean they can’t do the same things the other students do. They are leaders in the deaf community and truly shine out as star players.

Free Teacher Resources | Special Education by MangoMon by MangoMon


Online Resources Provided by the US Department of Education

The United States Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs has three programs that are great resources for special education teachers, administrators, and technology coordinators:  Tech Matrix, The National Center for Technology Innovation, and The Center for Implementing Technology in Education.  Their companion websites have research-based articles, professional development resources, specialized searches, assistive technology reviews, articles, and events information related to technology and special education.


Today’s post will include information about Tech Matrix.  Please come back over the next two weeks to learn more about The National Center for Technology Innovation and The Center for Implementing Technology in Education.

Tech Matrix

Tech Matrix is a free online database for teachers and parents to use to find research-based articles, professional development resources, specialized searches, and assistive technology options from various private and public online resources.  This site aggregates the “best-of-the-best” resources available for learning and implementing strategies for special education.  Tech Matrix helps to simplify the search of information in regards to special education.  Tech Matrix is created and maintained by The National Center for Technology Innovation and the Center for Implementing Technology in Education.

There are several different ways to search for resources and research through Tech Matrix.  There is a search option if you know what information you are looking for, and there are three general topic areas.

The first one is the Consumer Guides section.  This section helps to connect education administrators and assistive technology companies in building relationships and making technology decisions for special education students.  This PDF document includes information on funding, standard alignment, and implementation in an easy to read format.

The second section in Tech Matrix is the EdTech Locator.  This portion of the website allows teachers, administrators, and tech coordinators to see where they stand on integration of technology in the classroom.  This would be a great resource for a professional development course.  The user takes a short quiz to see where they stand and the program has tree targets – early, developing, and target integration of technology.  This site can help teachers to reach the goals of integrating technology in the classroom without feeling overwhelming and making sure that the technology integration is meaningful and helping the students achieve their academic goals.

The third section in Tech Matrix is the Hot Topics section.   This section includes the information from the content subject areas.  This is the most helpful section for the tech-savvy instructor who wants to learn more about technology integration in the classroom with special needs students.  Topics include reading, science, math, and writing for struggling readers along with differentiating instruction, technology integrating and transitioning with technology.  When you select on one of these topics you will find information related to the topic including relevant research papers, links to other online resources that answer hot topic questions, and technology product reviews.  Many of the resources are pulled from, a PBS national education service.

Don’t hesitate to take a look at the Tech Matrix pages above and leave a comment about the resources that you found the most helpful.

Article By Laura Ketchum

Picture By Ranoush

Free Teacher Resources | Special Education by MangoMon by MangoMon


© 2016 Smart Tutor LLC. All Rights Reserved.