This image is making the rounds through various social media outlets. I think it is a wonderful representation of the various settings and situations encountered in special education. I will share my take on each of these.

Full inclusion is the ultimate LRE (least restrictive environment) but is simply not the appropriate placement or LRE for some students. My son Gabriel rarely encounters this model because it is simply would not work for him. Even when it is the appropriate LRE it is incredibly challenging to enact for various reasons which I’ll enumerate.

Special ed teachers are often overwhelmed with responsibilities to provide the support for a full inclusion environment.

Administration does not allow for the factors necessary for implementation, e.g. providing a student with the individual attention necessary.

For the most part, general ed teachers simply do not know how to or do not take responsibility for providing accommodations necessary, especially ones not listed in the IEP.

The other models are both useful and misused as well. Exclusion can refer to how students in special education either are denied access to or could not make use of many opportunities or classes. Segregation would represent a self-contained placement. It has its place in services. My son Gabriel has situations in which it is necessary and desired. The integration model is also perfectly valid. Some students are not capable of being fully woven into a class but they can benefit from proximity to peers.

Manchester CC Survey about Student Struggles

Manchester Community College (CT) surveyed their students and asked for reasons why students struggle in their classes. The number two most common response was that students didn’t know how to study effectively.

If the students in the general population struggle with this imagine students with special needs. As I’ve posted elsewhere on this blog, students with autism or asperger’s are very likely to have executive functioning deficits which directly and significantly impacts the aforementioned self-help skills.

Note: commentor asked for link to this study. Here it is. Find “Survey Results at the bottom of the list of handouts – page 11 on the Word document.

Notebook Strategy

I use what I call a table of contents notebook strategy. Each item (notes, handout etc.) that is to be placed into the notebook is dated and labeled with a “page” number. Each page is recorded in the table of contents. This helps students maintain work in chronological order. For example, on a single day a student may have a warm-up/do now, notes and classwork solving a 1 step equation (e.g. x + 3 = 9).

This helps the student because he or she can find the notes and classwork when he attempts homework. This helps the parent monitor the student’s work and organization efforts. Also, if a parent needs to help a student he or she can see the notes to assist with homework.


I wrote in another post about a 7th grader with asperger’s who tested in math at a 1st grade or kindergarten level. I used scaffolding to show him how to do Sudoku puzzles. On the left is a simple version with one digit missing from the box. In the middle is a little more complicated scaffold. On the right is a completed Sudoku puzzle that this student completed on his own (minimal prompting). These worksheets come from

Math Work is like a Maze

Students in math often believe they should know exactly what to do to complete a problem. If not they think they cannot do the problem. Effective math students have learned how to tinker with a problem until they find a path. This is called academic discipline.

I use a maze as an analogy. When we work through a maze we hit roadblocks. When we do, we back up and try something else. That is how to do math.

Daily Checklist for ASD

This is a daily checklist (list of expectations) for a student with an autism spectrum disorder. This student completes it as we proceed through class. He gets a daily grade for this. This particular student loves The Avengers so I added a Captain America sticker as reinforcement (which he likes).

Other students have a more detailed checklist with a reliance on words alone. Kids with ASD often need visual representations.

yogurt unit rates

Real life applications in of themselves will not make a concept real for many if not most students with special needs. They likely need the concept broken down into more concrete form (CRA).

For this problem I would fudge the numbers and have 42 oz at $6 (7 oz per dollar) and a 5 oz at $1. I would have a photo of a “42” oz yogurt and cut it into 6 pieces and have 6 $1 bills and match each yogurt piece with a dollar bill to help students visualize the unit rate.

I took this photo tonight at Big Y and threw together this idea on the fly.

Science Fair Project

I once had a 7th grade student with asperger’s who tested at a 1st grade or kindergarten reading and math level. I helped guide him through his science fair project. I asked him what he was interested in. He replied “growing flowers.” I asked what helps make flowers grow. He responded with water and sunlight. From there I guided him and asked leading questions for his project on photosynthesis. He collected real data and supported his hypothesis. By the end he could explain the process of photosynthesis. This is his project board and he won at the school level and went to the district competition! This is perhaps my most rewarding experience as a teacher.