For Professionals New to Disability

A pretty black teacher sits on the corner of her desk.

April 2011
A legacy resource from NICHCY

Are you a teacher who has a student with a disability in your class this year? Perhaps you work in daycare or an early childhood program, and the newest kid on the playground uses a wheelchair?  Or maybe you run an afterschool program—-which now includes a third grader with serious behavioral challenges.  Maybe  you’re a ….

Well, you get the idea. Your professional life now includes addressing the needs of an individual or individuals with disabilities.

What do you do? What should you do? You don’t know, because you’re new to disabilities!

Well, the truth is, most of us start out not knowing much about disabilities. But when disability touches your life, professionally or personally, you have to come up to speed fast. You’ll be pleased to know there is a lot of help, understanding, and assistance near your fingertips.

You can start right here with this legacy resource from NICHCY, the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities. Although NICHCY is no longer funded, many of its resources are being maintained by the Center for Parent Information and Resources.

First Things First

First, let us say that the CPIR is honored to welcome you to the disability community of those who are working with individuals with disabilities. Know that you can make a big difference in the life of each person with a disability you work with. You don’t have to do it alone though, you’ll be glad to know. There is a lot of disability expertise available, as you’ll see.

A Home Truth About Disability
There are many home truths about disability, but perhaps the  most visible one is that “disability is a natural part of the human experience...”

We’ve quoted here from Congress. This was the first finding of Congress when it wrote the nation’s special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. You’ll find many disability laws in the United States. They are all part of a national policy “to ensure equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities.”

The work you do with each person with a disability supports this national policy—-not to mention the goals and well-being of the individual!

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Finding the Information and Help You Need
OK, friend, let’s get down to different business—connecting you with expertise to inform your work and interactions with those who have disabilities. In this section, we’re not going to explain anything in detail (the page would never end!). We’re going to suggest that you visit certain pages on our site. That’s where you’ll find things explained.

What type of information were you looking for today?

Find out about a particular disability.
Visit our Categories of Disability page and connect with fact sheets on many different disability conditions in children.

Is there a “disability etiquette” I should know about?
Yes. Read more at Disability Awareness. Information about disability etiquette is towards the bottom of that page.

I’m a child care provider. What do I need to know about my legal obligations?
Visit our page called Especially for Child Care Providers.  You’ll find the answer there.

How do I address challenging behavior in a young child?
Find answers in Addressing Challenging Behavior in Young Children.

What disabilities qualify for special education services in the public schools?
You’ll find the answer in Categories of Disability Under IDEA.

I’m a general educator. How do I help this new student with a disability in my class?
Great question! We have lots of resources to share with you, including the ones we’ve listed below.

Learn more about the student’s specific disability.
Connect with our fact sheets on disabilities via Categories of Disability Under IDEA. They include “Tips for Teachers.”

How did this student end up in my class?
Read how placement is decided for students with disabilities, in Placement, Short and Sweet.

Find out about accommodations and supports you can offer.
The Supports, Modifications, and Accommodations page has a wealth of info on the subject.

What about instruction? What’s effective with students with disabilities?
Perhaps begin looking for what you need at Effective Practices in the Classroom and School.  You’ll also find what research has to say about effective instruction in our Research Center.

How do I help the other students in the class understand the needs of this new student?
Try our Disability Awareness page.

How do I really make inclusion “work”?
Read about effective practices in School Inclusion.

This student has an IEP. What is that?
Find out fast in The Short-and-Sweet IEP Overview.

I’m supposed to help write the student’s IEP. What does the general educator contribute?
Have a look at Regular Educators on the IEP Team.

When behavior is a concern.
We offer a Behavior Suite, which can help you address behavior issues in your classroom. Have a look at Behavior at School.

For other questions and concerns…
Please visit another NICHCY legacy page, Especially for Schools and Administrators. There’s a section devoted especially to teachers. Also, have a look at the many topics treated under Children (3-22), where you’ll find info on aspects of educating children with disabilities.

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Other Places and Pages to Visit

We don’t know what type of assistance or info you’re looking for today, so it’s hard to cover all the possibilities. So let us give you a small laundry-list of other pages that may hold the info you seek.  You can also try entering search terms in the SEARCH box you’ll find at the top of every webpage.

The disability Technical Assistance and Dissemination network

Resources for employers

Resources for transportation providers

Resources for school administrators

About the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

About the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

About early intervention for babies and toddlers (to the 3rd birthday)

About the special education process for children (3-22)

I don’t even know what to ask! It’s all too new.
Understood. The first steps into the disability world can seem overwhelming. But go step by step. There’s a lot to learn and know. We humbly suggest that you poke around CPIR’s Repository of Resources , and see what you find.

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We hope this brief introduction to the disability world of expertise has gotten you started in your search for information and connection. CPIR stands ready as an ongoing resource. Visit early, visit often! We’re glad you’re here.