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In 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were approximately 473,000 special education teachers working in public and private institutions across the United States. From creating specialized lessons plans and dealing with behavior problems to working with a child’s parents to create effective disciplinary strategies, special education teachers face many unique issues that traditional educators simply cannot understand. Professional organizations provide special education teachers with a variety of valuable resources, and in some cases, access to a group of people facing the same teaching challenges. If you’re earning a special education degree, here are four of the most useful organizations you should know about and consider joining.

National Center for Special Education Research

In 2004, the United States government reorganized the original Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In doing so, they created the National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER). The website and organization provide valuable resources for special education teachers based on a simple idea of what works. According to the website, the primary goal of the NCSER is to research and educate, as well as provide additional resources teachers might find useful. Amongst them are the forums, which provide teachers with varying methodologies and points-of-view. The NCSER website also provides information on grant and funding opportunities, making it easier for researchers and teachers to apply for and access the funds with greater ease.

International Association of Special Education

The need for talented and committed special education teachers and researchers is a global issue, which is why the International Association of Special Education (IASE) was formed in 1985. The organization’s main goals are to educate and raise awareness of the unique needs of disabled children around the world. Where this organization sets itself apart from the rest is the sense of community it has fostered throughout several fields, including teaching, speech therapy, psychology, social work and with the parents of disabled children. Becoming a member of the IASE entitles you to several benefits, including access to the Journal of the International Association of Special Education and the opportunity to participate in fascinating volunteer service projects across the globe. The IASE membership form is available through their website and it costs $50 initially to become a member.

Council for Exceptional Children

With over 30,000 members, the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) is the largest international professional organization of its type. The organization’s main objective is to improve the lives of gifted, talented, disabled or otherwise exceptional children. The organization that later became the CEC was founded in 1922 during a summer session at the Teachers College of Columbia University. Today, the organization awards millions of dollars in scholarships and grants to teachers, researchers and children, alike. If you’re interested in becoming a member after completing online teacher certification programs, visit the CEC website at There are a variety of membership types and each comes with its own benefits and price point. For instance, a “Professional” membership is ideal for special education teachers and depending on where you live, costs anywhere from $130 to $175 per year. Members are also allowed to attend a variety of conventions and meetings held throughout the United States.

National Association for Gifted Children

Many special education teachers are faced with the dilemma of attempting to challenge their gifted and talented students. The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) was created with those exceptional children in mind and provides teachers with the latest research from a variety of publications. With over 8,000 members, the NAGC is a more modest organization, but the benefits of membership can prove invaluable. There are a variety of memberships available for teachers, parents and graduate students. The “Individual Membership” is $99 per year and includes a variety of benefits including monthly and quarterly publications and membership discounts through several retailers. A $59 per year “Graduate Student” membership offers students the ability to network with their peers and professionals working at the high school and university levels.

Joining a professional organization is an excellent way for special education teachers to remain abreast of the latest innovations and research in their field. It can also simply be an amazing way to meet and befriend your fellow special education teachers. Ultimately it’s this support system that proves the most valuable.

About the Author: Ruby Grace is a guest blogger and recent graduate. Ruby is currently volunteering at her local high school while preparing to enter graduate school in the near future.