Seven Things to Know About the “1 in 5” with Learning and Attention Issues
By: Dr. Ifeanyi A. Ufondu

The term “learning and attention issues” covers a wide range of challenges kids may face in school, at home and in the community. It includes all children who are struggling — whether their issues have been formally identified or not. Learning and attention issues are brain-based difficulties, and they often run in families. Find resources that can help kids be successful in school and in life!

#1: One in five kids has a learning or attention issue. Chances are, you know a child with learning and attention issues.
Learning Disabilities: An Overview
Find out more about the different types of learning disabilities, how they’re identified, and what types of instruction support students with LD.
Reading Rocks
Meet Sam, Madeleine, Oliver, and the rest of the kids at the Lab School of Washington, D.C., a school designed especially for children with learning disabilities.
Down and Up: The Emotional Journey of a Child with LD
This animation from the National Center for Learning Disabilities shows what it’s like for a child who is struggling in school. It also shows the power of kind words when it comes to overcoming obstacles.
9 Surprising Facts About Learning and Attention Issues
In a recent survey by the National Center for Learning Disabilities, nearly everyone asked had heard of dyslexia. But only one-third knew about other learning disabilities. And more than half of the people surveyed incorrectly think that wearing glasses can treat certain learning disabilities. Here are nine other facts that might surprise you.

#2: Learning and attention issues are brain-based difficulties that can cause kids to struggle in school, socially and with everyday skills. Dyslexia and ADHD are examples of common learning and attention issues.
Dyslexia Basics
Do you think your child or student might have dyslexia? This fact sheet provides a definition of dyslexia, symptoms, prevalence, signs, and effects, as well as ways to help your child.
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Get the basics on ADHD, including signs, treatment, accommodations in school, and tips for parents and teachers.
Reading and the Brain
Hosted by Henry Winkler — who has had his own struggles with reading — our PBS show explores how brain scientists are working to solve the puzzle of why some children struggle to read and others don’t.

#3: Having learning and attention issues doesn’t mean a child isn’t intelligent. In fact, many kids with learning and attention issues are very bright.
Talking to Children About LD
A psychologist specializing in language-based learning disabilities explains how to talk to children about their LD. All the parts you need to be smart are in your brain. Nothing is missing or broken. The difference between your brain and one that doesn’t have an LD is that your brain gets “traffic jams” on certain highways.
Children’s books featuring characters with learning and attention issues
Use our Book Finder tool to discover picture books and chapter books that include characters with dyslexia, ADHD, and other learning and attention issues (ages 3-12).
Meet children’s authors and illustrators with dyslexia and ADHD
Hear first-hand what it was like to struggle with reading from Dav Pilkey, Patricia Polacco, Avi, Jerry Pinkney, E.B. Lewis, Carmen Agra Deedy, and others, and learn how these talented writers and illustrators discovered their strengths and gifts.
Personal Stories
From Understood, discover stories of perseverance and strength from celebreties and other adults with learning and attention issues, as well as kids who have their own stories to share.

#4: It’s a myth that kids with learning and attention issues are “just being lazy.” While learning and attention issues may not be as visible as other health issues, they’re just as real.
The World’s Greatest Underachiever
Actor and author Henry Winkler reminisces about how dyslexia impacted his school years in this article from Highlights for Children magazine. “Now I know,” he writes, “that even if a person learns differently, he or she can still be filled with greatness.”
What Are Classrooms Like for Students with Learning Disabilities?
Classrooms can be perilous in a number of ways for students with learning disabilities. Here are some tips to remember when working with students with LD.
Putdowns and Comebacks
When children struggle in school, they can easily get discouraged. They might say or think “I’ll never learn how to read” or “I’m just dumb.” To turn these self-defeating thoughts and feelings around, kids need the help of caring adults. Discover what a child’s “put downs” may mean and what “comebacks” you can say or do to encourage a child to keep trying.
Experts Weigh In: “What Should I Do When My Child Says ‘I’m Dumb’?”
It may be one of the most painful things to hear your child say: “I’m dumb” or “I’m stupid.” Your immediate reaction might be “No you’re not!” But is that a helpful way to respond? How you react can have a positive impact on your child’s self-esteem and his motivation to keep working on his challenges. Here, five experts weigh in on what to do if your child says he’s dumb.

#5: Some signs of learning and attention issues — like refusing to read aloud, having a consistently messy backpack or not wanting to go to school — can seem so commonplace that they’re easy to overlook. If parents are concerned, talking to their child’s teacher or doctor is a great first step.
Common Signs of Dyslexia
Dyslexia is the most common cause of reading, writing and spelling difficulties. This article provides a brief overview list of typical signs of dyslexia in preschool and kindergarten.
Recognizing Reading Problems
Learning to read is a challenge for many kids, but most can become good readers if they get the right help. Parents have an important job in recognizing when a child is struggling and knowing how to find help. Here are some signs to look for and things to do if you suspect your child is having trouble reading.
Handwriting: What’s Normal, What’s Not
Learn what to look for as your child’s handwriting skills begin to develop, as well as some signs and symptoms of dysgraphia — a learning disability that affects a child’s handwriting and ability to hold a pencil or crayon.
I’m Concerned My Child Might Have Learning and Attention Issues. Now What?
Are you wondering if learning and attention issues are causing your child’s challenges in school or at home? If so, you wouldn’t be alone. One in five kids have learning and attention issues. And with the right support, they can thrive in school and in life. Here are 10 steps you can take to determine if your child has learning and attention issues, and where to go from there.

#6: Kids learn in different ways and at different paces. It’s important to teach to each student’s individual strengths, skills and needs. This is true for all kids — not just kids with learning and attention issues.
Universal Design for Learning: Meeting the Needs of All Students
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) provides the opportunity for all students to access, participate in, and progress in the general-education curriculum by reducing barriers to instruction. Learn more about how UDL offers options for how information is presented, how students demonstrate their knowledge and skills, and how students are engaged in learning.
Multisensory Parenting Tips
There are many ways a parent can help and encourage a child by using some multisensory techniques. Discover 12 easy tips that encourage multisensory learning at home.
Designing a Dossier: An Instruction Book for Your Child
Many of the adults in your child’s life are unfamiliar with learning disorders in general, or your child’s unique pattern of strengths and limitations. Developing a one- to three-page dossier that provides useful information about your child can help their babysitters, coaches, teachers, bus drivers, school support staff, neighbors, and relatives understand their limitations.
Educational Strategies: An Overview
Many educational strategies are available to build on your child’s strengths. Understanding these strategies can help you work with the school to figure out what’s right for your child. From Understood, learn more about the educational strategies you’re most likely to encounter.

#7: By setting high expectations for kids with learning and attention issues, and ensuring they have the right supports from parents, educators and the community, we can propel them to thrive in school and in life.
5 Things Your Grade-Schooler With Dyslexia Can Say to Self-Advocate
Self-advocacy is an important skill for even young kids with dyslexia to develop. But sometimes it’s hard for grade-schoolers to know what to say. Find out how you can help your child by rehearsing common situations she may face.
How Parents Can Be Advocates for Their Children
Parents are often the best educational advocates for their children, especially children with a learning disability. The Coordinated Campaign for Learning Disabilities (CCLD) has developed the following tips to help parents champion their child.

Help Your Child with a Learning Disability Be More Independent with Assistive Technology
This guide focuses on ways to encourage the independence of a student with learning disabilities while in school and as they transition to college or work.
Empowering Parents
In our PBS show, Dr. Ifeanyi Ufondu, founder of Beautiful Minds Inc. – Advocacy & Special Needs Solutions visits schools in Huntingtown, Maryland, and Portland, Oregon, to see how families learn to identify early signs of reading problems and find ideas for getting their kids the help and support they need to succeed at reading.
Partnering with Your Child’s School
From Understood, find dozens of articles, tips, and checklists to help you learn how to work more effectively with your child’s school and teachers.
Empowering Your Child
From Understood, find dozens of articles, tips, downloadable activities and worksheets, booklists, and more to help your child understand his unique strengths and challenges and learn to advocate for his needs.

Non-Traditonal Instructional Grouping for Reading for Students with LD: Implications for Practice

By: Ifeanyi-Allah Ufondu, Marie Tejero Hughes, Sally Watson Moody, and Batya Elbaum

After discussion of each grouping format, implications for practice are highlighted with particular emphasis on instructional practices that promote effective grouping to meet the needs of all students during reading in general education classrooms. In the last 5 years, two issues in education have assumed considerable importance: reading instruction and inclusion. With respect to reading instruction, the issue has been twofold: (a) Too many students are not making adequate progress in reading), and (b) we are not taking advantage of research based practices in the implementation of reading programs. In the popular press the complexities and subtleties of this issue have been reduced to a simple argument between phonics versus whole language, but the reality is that there is considerable concern about the quality and effectiveness of early reading instruction. With respect to the second major issue of inclusion, considerable effort has been expended to restructure special and general education so that the needs of students with disabilities are better met within integrated settings. The result is that more students with disabilities receive education within general education settings than ever before, and increased collaboration is taking place between general and special education.
Both of these issues-reading instruction and inclusion-have been the topics for national agendas (e.g., President Clinton’s announcement in his State of the Union Address in 1996 that every child read by the end of third grade, Regular Education Initiative), state initiatives (e.g., Texas and California Reading Initiatives), and local school districts. The implementation of practices related to both of these issues has immediate and substantive impact on professional development, teaching practices, and materials used by classroom teachers.
Grouping practices for reading instruction play a critical role in facilitating effective implementation of both reading instruction and inclusion of students with disabilities in general education classes. Maheady referred to grouping as one of the alterable instructional factors that “can powerfully influence positively or negatively the levels of individual student engagement and hence academic progress”, as well as a means by which we can address diversity in classrooms. As increased numbers of students with learning disabilities (LD) are receiving education in the general education classroom, teachers will need to consider grouping practices that are effective for meeting these students’ needs. Furthermore, reading instruction is the academic area of greatest need for students with LD; thus, grouping practices that enhance the reading acquisition skills of students with LD need to be identified and implemented.
Until relatively recently, most teachers used homogeneous (same ability) groups for reading instruction. This prevailing practice was criticized based on several factors; ability grouping: (a) lowers self-esteem and reduces motivation among poor readers, (b) restricts friendship choices, and (c) widens the gap between poor readers and good readers. Perhaps the most alarming aspect of ability grouping was the finding that students who were the poorest readers received reading instruction that was inferior to that of higher ability counterparts in terms of instructional time; time reading, discussing, and comprehending text (Allington, 1980); and appropriateness of reading materials. As a result, heterogeneous grouping practices now prevail, and alternative grouping practices such as cooperative learning and peer tutoring have been developed.
As general education classrooms become more heterogeneous, due in part to the integration of students with LD, both special and general education teachers need to have at their disposal a variety of instructional techniques designed to meet the individual needs of their students. In this article, we provide an overview of the recent research on grouping. practices (whole class, small group, pairs, one-on-one) teachers use during reading instruction; furthermore, implications for reading instruction are highlighted after each discussion.


Whole-class instruction
Research findings

Considerable research has focused on the fact that for much of general education the instructional format is one in which the teacher delivers education to the class as a whole. The practice of whole-class instruction as the dominant approach to instruction has been well documented. For example, in a study that involved 60 elementary, middle, and high school general education classrooms that were observed over an entire year, whole-class instruction was the norm. When teachers were not providing whole-class instruction, they typically circulated around the room monitoring progress and behavior or attended to their own paperwork.
Elementary students have also reported that whole-class instruction is the predominant instructional grouping format. Students noted that teachers most frequently provided reading instruction to the class as a whole or by having students work alone. Students less frequently reported opportunities to work in small groups, and they rarely worked in pairs. Although students preferred to receive reading instruction in mixed-ability groups, they considered same ability grouping for reading important for nonreaders. Students who were identified as better readers revealed that they were sensitive to the needs of lower readers and did not express concerns about the unfairness of having to help them in mixed-ability groups. In particular, students with LD expressed appreciation for mixed-ability groups because they could then readily obtain help in identifying words or understanding what they were reading.
Many professionals have argued that teachers must decentralize some of their instruction if they are going to appropriately meet the needs of the increasing number of students with reading difficulties. However, general education teachers perceive that it is a lot more feasible to provide large-group instruction than small-group instruction for students with LD in the general education classroom. The issue is also true for individualizing instruction or finding time to provide mini lessons for students with LD. Teachers have reported that these are difficult tasks to embed in their instructional routines.


Implications for practice
Numerous routines and instructional practices can contribute to teachers’ effective use of whole-class instruction and implementation of alternative grouping practices.
Teachers can involve all students during whole-class instruction by asking questions and then asking students to partner to discuss the answer. Ask one student from the pair to provide the answer. This keeps all students engaged.
Teachers can use informal member checks to determine whether students agree, disagree, or have a question about a point made. This allows each student to quickly register a vote and requires students to attend to the question asked. Member checks can be used frequently and quickly to maintain engagement and learning for all students.
Teachers can ask students to provide summaries of the main points of a presentation through a discussion or after directions are provided. All students benefit when the material is reviewed, and a student summary allows the teacher to determine whether students understand the critical features.
Because many students with LD are reluctant to ask questions in large groups, teachers can provide cues to encourage and support students in taking risks. For example, teachers can encourage students to ask a “who,” “what,” or “where” question.
At the conclusion of a reading lesson, the teacher can distribute lesson reminder sheets, which all the students complete. These can be used by teachers to determine (a) what students have learned from the lesson, (b) what students liked about what they learned, and (c) what else students know about the topic.


Small-group instruction
Research findings

Small-group instruction offers an environment for teachers to provide students extensive opportunities to express what they know and receive feedback from other students and the teacher. Instructional conversations are easier to conduct and support with a small group of students. In a recent meta-analysis of the extent to which variation in effect sizes for reading outcomes for students with disabilities was associated with grouping format for reading instruction, small groups were found to yield the highest effect sizes. It is important to add that the overall number of small-group studies available in the sample was two. However, this finding is bolstered by the results of a meta-analysis of small-group instruction for students without disabilities, which yielded significantly high effect sizes for small-group instruction. The findings from this meta-analysis reveal that students in small groups in the classroom learned significantly more than students who were not instructed in small groups.
In a summary of the literature across academic areas for students with mild to severe disabilities, Polloway, Cronin, and Patton indicated that the research supported the efficacy of small-group instruction. In fact, their synthesis revealed that one-to-one instruction was not superior to small-group instruction. They further identified several benefits of small-group instruction, which include more efficient use of teacher and student time, lower cost, increased instructional time, increased peer interaction, and opportunities for students to improve generalization of skills.
In a descriptive study of the teacher-student ratios in special education classrooms (e.g., 1-1 instruction, 1-3 instruction, and 1-6 instruction), smaller teacher-led groups were associated with qualitatively and quantitatively better instruction. Missing from this study was an examination of student academic performance; thus, the effectiveness of various group sizes in terms of student achievement could not be determined.
A question that requires further attention regarding the effectiveness of small groups is the size of the group needed based on the instructional needs of the student. For example, are reading group sizes of six as effective as groups of three? At what point is the group size so large that the effects are similar to those of whole-class instruction? Do students who are beginning readers or those who have struggled extensively learning to read require much smaller groups, perhaps even one-on-one instruction, to ensure progress?
Although small group instruction is likely a very powerful tool to enhance the reading success of many children with LD, it is unlikely to be sufficient for many students. In addition to the size of the group, issues about the role of the teacher in small-group instruction require further investigation. In our analysis of the effectiveness of grouping practices for reading, each of the two studies represented different roles for the teacher. In one study, the teacher served primarily as the facilitator, while in a second study the teacher’s role was primarily one of providing direct instruction. Although the effect sizes for both studies were quite high (1.61 and .75, respectively), further research is needed to better understand issues related to a teacher’s role and responsibility within the group.


Implications for practice
Many teachers reveal that they have received little or no professional development in how to develop and implement successful instructional groups. Effective use of instructional groups may be enhanced through some of the following practices.
Perhaps the most obvious, but not always the most feasible application of instructional groups, is to implement reading groups that are led by the teacher. Whereas these groups have been demonstrated as effective, many teachers find it difficult to provide effective instruction to other members of the class while they are providing small-group instruction. Some teachers address this problem by providing learning centers, project learning, and shared reading time during small group instruction.
Flexible grouping has also been suggested as a procedure for implementing small-group instruction that addresses the specific needs of students without restricting their engagement to the same group all the time. Flexible grouping is considered an effective practice for enhancing the knowledge and skills of students without the negative social consequences associated with more permanent reading groups. This way teachers can use a variety of grouping formats at different times, determined by such criteria as students’ skills, prior knowledge, or interest. Flexible groups may be particularly valuable for students with LD who require explicit, intensive instruction in reading as well as opportunities for collaborative group work with classmates who are more proficient readers. Flexible grouping may also satisfy students’ preferences for working with a range of classmates rather than with the same students all of the time.
Student-led small groups have become increasingly popular based on the effective implementation of reciprocal teaching. This procedure allows students to take turns assuming the role of the leader and guiding reading instruction through question direction and answer facilitation.

Peer pairing and tutoring
Research findings

Asking students to work with a peer is an effective procedure for enhancing student learning in reading and is practical to implement because teachers are not responsible for direct contact with students. For students with LD involved in reading activities, the overall effect size for peer pairing based on a meta-analysis was ES = .37. This finding was similar to one reported for students with LD (ES = .36; Mathes & Fuchs, 1994) and for general education students (mean ES = .40).
The Elbaum and colleagues report revealed that the magnitude of the effects for peer pairing differed considerably depending on the role of the student within the pair. For example, when students with disabilities were paired with same-age partners, they derived greater benefit (ES = .43) from being tutored rather than from engagement in reciprocal tutoring (ES = .15). This may be a result that for the most part the tutors were students without disabilities who demonstrated better reading skills and were able to provide more effective instruction. These findings differ, however, when the peer pairing is cross-age rather than same-age. Overall, cross-age peer pairing students with disabilities derived greater benefit when they served in the role of tutor.
Students with LD prefer to work in pairs (with another student) rather than in large groups or by themselves. In fact, many students with LD consider other students to be their favorite teacher. Considering the high motivation students express for working with peers and the moderately high effect sizes that result from peer pairing activities for reading, it is unfortunate that students report very low use of peer pairing as an instructional procedure.
Implications for practice
Because students appreciate and benefit from opportunities to work with peers in reading activities, the following instructional practices may enhance opportunities for teachers to construct effective peer pairing within their classrooms.
Classwide Peer Tutoring (CWPT) is an instructional practice developed at Juniper Gardens to “increase the proportion of instructional time that all students engage in academic behaviors and provide pacing, feedback, immediate error correction, high mastery levels, and content coverage”. CWPT requires 30 minutes of instructional time during which 10 minutes is planned for each student to serve as a tutor, 10 minutes to be tutored, and 5 to 10 minutes to add and post individual and team points. Tutees begin by reading a brief passage from their book to their tutor, who in turns provides immediate error correction as well as points for correctly reading the sentences. When CWPT is used for reading comprehension, the tutee responds to “who, what, when, where, and why” questions provided by the tutor concerning the reading passage. The tutor corrects responses and provides the tutee with feedback.
Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies (PALS) borrows the basic structure of the original CWPT but expands the procedures to engage students in strategic reading activities. Students are engaged in three strategic reading activities more typically addressed during teacher directed instruction: partner reading with retell, paragraph summary, and prediction relay. PALS provides students with intensive, systematic practice in reading aloud, reviewing and sequencing information read, summarizing, stating main ideas, and predicting.
Think-Pair-Share hare was described by McTighe and Lyman as a procedure for enhancing student engagement and learning by providing students with opportunities to work individually and then to share their thinking or work with a partner. First, students are asked to think individually about a topic for several minutes. Then they are asked to work with a partner to discuss their thinking or ideas and to form a joint response. Pairs of students then share their responses with the class as a whole.

One-on-one instruction
Research findings

Traditionally, one-on-one instruction in which the student receives explicit instruction by the teacher is considered the most effective practice for enhancing outcomes for students with LD. In fact, the clinical model where the teacher works directly with the student for a designated period of time has a long standing tradition in LD. Most professionals consider one-on-one instruction to be the preferred procedure for enhancing outcomes in reading . Many professionals perceive one-on-one instruction as essential for students who are falling to learn to read: “Instruction in small groups may be effective as a classroom strategy, but it is not sufficient as a preventive or remedial strategy to give students a chance to catch up with their age mates”.
In a review of five programs designed for one-on-one instruction, Wasik and Slavin revealed that all of the programs were highly effective, even though they represented a broad range of methodologies. Though one-on-one instructional procedures are viewed as highly effective, they are actually infrequently implemented with students with LD, and when implemented, it is often for only a few minutes.
In a recent review of research on one-on-one instruction in reading, no published studies were identified that compared one-on-one instruction with other grouping formats (e.g., pairs, small groups, whole class) for elementary students with LD. Thus, though one-on-one instruction is a highly prized instructional procedure for students with LD, very little is known about its effectiveness.


Implications for practice
The implications for practice of one-on-one instruction are in many ways the most difficult to define because although there is universal agreement on its value, very little is known about its effectiveness for students with LD relative to other grouping formats. Furthermore, the instructional implications for practitioners revolve mostly around assisting them in restructuring their classrooms and caseloads so that it is possible for them to implement one-on-one instruction. Over the past 8 years we have worked with numerous special educators who have consistently informed us that the following factors impede their ability to implement one-on-one instruction: (a) case loads that often require them to provide services for as many as 20 students for 2 hours per day, forcing group sizes that exceed what many teachers perceive as effective; (b) increased requirements to work collaboratively with classroom teachers, which reduces their time for providing instruction directly to students; and (c) ongoing and time-consuming paperwork that facilitates documentation of services but impedes implementation of services.
Considering the “reality factors” identified by teachers, it is difficult to imagine how they might provide the one-on-one instruction required by many students with LD in order to make adequate progress in reading. Certainly, it would require restructuring special education so that the number of students receiving services and the amount of time these services are provided by special education teachers is altered.
Research studies have repeatedly shown that reading instruction in many classrooms is not designed to provide students with sufficient engaged reading opportunities to promote reading growth. We have provided a summary of recent research on the effectiveness for students with LD of various grouping practices that can increase engaged reading opportunities, as well as implications of this research for classroom instruction. As classrooms become more diverse, teachers need to vary their grouping practices during reading instruction. There needs to be a balance across grouping practices, not a sweeping abandonment of smaller grouping practices in favor of whole-class instruction. Teachers can meet the needs of all students, including the students with LD, by careful use of a variety of grouping practices, including whole-class instruction, teacher- and peer-led small group instruction, pairing and peer tutoring, and one-on-one instruction.


About the authors

Ifeanyi-Allah Ufondu, PhD, is the Nation’s leading Special Needs advocate and Educational Psychologist. He is also the founder of Beautiful Minds Inc.- Advocacy & Special Needs Solutions. His current interests include best grouping practices for reading instruction and advocacy for At-Risk youth. Marie Tejero Hughes, PhD, is a research assistant professor in the School of Education at the University of Miami. Her research interests include parental involvement and instructional strategies for students with disabilities in inclusive settings. Sally Watson Moody is a senior research associate in the School of Education at the University of Miami. Her research interests include instructional grouping and effective reading instruction for students with learning disabilities. Batya Elbaum, PhD, is an assistant research professor in the School of Education at the University of Miami. Her primary research is on the academic progress and social development of students with learning disabilities.

Beautiful Minds Inc. Back-To-School Tips for Special Education Teachers

By: Dr. Ifeanyi A. Ufondu, Founder

Along with new smiling faces, a new school year brings special education teachers new IEPs, new co-teaching arrangements, new assessments to give, and more. In order to help you be as effective as you can with your new students, we’ve put together our top 10 list of back-to-school tips that we hope will make managing your special education program a little easier.

1. Organize all that paperwork
Special educators handle lots of paperwork and documentation throughout the year. Try to set up two separate folders or binders for each child on your case load: one for keeping track of student work and assessment data and the other for keeping track of all other special education documentation.

2. Start a communication log
Keeping track of all phone calls, e-mails, notes home, meetings, and conferences is important. Create a “communication log” for yourself in a notebook that is easily accessible. Be sure to note the dates, times, and nature of the communications you have.

3. Review your students’ IEPs
The IEP is the cornerstone of every child’s educational program, so it’s important that you have a clear understanding of each IEP you’re responsible for. Make sure all IEPs are in compliance (e.g., all signatures are there and dates are aligned). Note any upcoming IEP meetings, reevaluations, or other key dates, and mark your calendar now. Most importantly, get a feel for where your students are and what they need by carefully reviewing the present levels of performance, services, and modifications in the IEP.

4. Establish a daily schedule for you and your students
Whether you’re a resource teacher or self-contained teacher, it’s important to establish your daily schedule. Be sure to consider the service hours required for each of your students, any related services, and co-teaching. Check your schedule against the IEPs to make sure that all services are met. And keep in mind that this schedule will most likely change during the year!

5. Call your students’ families
Take the time to introduce yourself with a brief phone call before school starts. You’ll be working with these students and their families for at least the next school year, and a simple “hello” from their future teacher can ease some of the back-to-school jitters!

6. Touch base with related service providers
It’s important to contact the related service providers — occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech/language therapists, or counselors — in your school as soon as possible to establish a schedule of times for your students who need these services. The earlier you touch base, the more likely you’ll be able to find times that work for everyone.

7. Meet with your general education co-teachers
Communicating with your general education co-teachers will be important throughout the year, so get a head start on establishing this important relationship now! Share all of the information you can about schedules, students, and IEP services so that you’re ready to start the year.

8. Keep everyone informed
All additional school staff such as assistants and specialists who will be working with your students need to be aware of their needs and their IEPs before school starts. Organize a way to keep track of who has read through the IEPs, and be sure to update your colleagues if the IEPs change during the school year.

9. Plan your B.O.Y. assessments
As soon as school starts, teachers start conducting their beginning of the year (B.O.Y.) assessments. Assessment data is used to update IEPs — and to shape your instruction — so it’s important to keep track of which students need which assessments. Get started by making a checklist of student names, required assessments, and a space for scores. This will help you stay organized and keep track of data once testing begins.

10. Start and stay positive
As a special educator, you’ll have lots of responsibilities this year, and it may seem overwhelming at times. If your focus is on the needs of your students and their success, you’ll stay motivated and find ways to make everything happen. Being positive, flexible, and organized from the start will help you and your students have a successful year.

For more information about starting the year off right, please visit our FAQ section

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