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As the parent of a special needs student, I’m always asked at the start of each school year, for any tools and strategies that have worked for my son in the past. As we start to prepare for September, these are five things I will definitely be recommending to all the special education teachers I know…

5 tools for special ed teachers

schedules1. Visual Schedules/Timers

My son is a very visual learner. He needs to see his schedule in advance and feel he has some control in what’s coming next. Visual schedules give him that sense of control. Timers help calm him by giving a visual, plus sensory (sound) cue that his current activity is coming to an end. They also gently remind him he will soon be transitioning to something new. Whether that activity is preferred or not, the timer really helps prepare him for that upcoming change and makes the transition easier for everyone involved.


2. OT Cart

Recently, one of my favorite teachers had the brilliant idea to create a rolling Occupational Therapy cart that could be shared among a few classrooms as needed. The cart includes a sensory bin, calming and fidget tools, games and various manipulatives to encourage and stimulate fine motor skills. Think of how many students could benefit by having these items at your fingertips at all times!

3. Reward Chart/Token Board goals

I think everyone appreciates working towards a goal. My little guy loves knowing his hard work will be rewarded and he wants to see exactly how long it’s going to take to see that work pay off. Visually, it gives him the time line of what’s expected and helps him cope with the workload because he can see his progress and know that his prize is in sight.

4. Pictello pictello

Pictello is an app that lets a teacher (or parent) quickly and easily create a visual social story right from their Ipad. You can add your own images using your Ipad or Iphone camera or even add video, giving motion to concepts like “over and under” or to show an activity like “hand washing”. This one app has revolutionized how my son learns. Social stories that used to be printed on paper and felt like “homework” to both create and view, are now suddenly alive and fun. He can watch himself in various scenarios and suddenly these stories are ones he wants to watch again and again without any prompting.

5. Birdhouse Birdhouse for special education teachers

The Birdhouse app has been incredibly helpful to me as a mom in tracking my son’s sleep, diet, medicines and behaviors. I am able to review our week at a glance to notice patterns and make any necessary adjustments. With Birdhouse for Teachers you will be better able to chart your students behaviors and keep track of their information easily in one neat, fun to use, streamlined system. You can record notes and quickly share them with your team. By improving parent- teacher communication and truly keeping everyone in the loop, we can maximize our student’s rate of success!