The world of special education can be mysterious and strange for the uninitiated. If you're lucky, you will have an experienced guide to lead the way. For special ed newbies, a good place to start is Wendy Moss and Denise Campbell's The Survival Guide for Kids in Special Education (and Their Parents): Understanding What Special Ed Is and How It Can Help You. This is the latest in Free Spirit Publishing's series of "survival guides." Previous titles include survival guides for kids with physical disabilities, ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, behavioral challenges, and others.
The fact that they have previously published these other titles explains what nagged me as a shortcoming of The Survival Guide for Kids in Special Education. The above listed characteristics, which are commonly thought of as special ed qualifiers, are not addressed in this book. This book is primarily written for kids with learning disabilities who, as a result, get help in special ed.
That said, the book gives some great tools and tips and coping mechanisms for those kids who get special ed help. The authors talk about the importance of keeping a positive attitude about getting help. "Having a positive attitude doesn't fix everything. But it DOES make learning easier." They offer strategies for talking about special ed with kids who are not in special ed, with an aim toward removing the stigma that it has in many kids' minds. They recommend the ADS strategy. "Act casual, cool, and confident. . . . Do what you need to do. . . . Say something that is quick, informative, and comfortable for you if anyone asks you questions or teases you."
The authors offer reassurance for kids who are sure what to think of the special ed process. All those tests they take are "not trying to find out if you are stupid. . . . The tests are meant to help the specialists figure out what kinds of mistakes you make and why." Kids should know that "having a learning disability does not mean that you can't learn. It means that you learn differently from other kids." Moss and Campbell want kids in special ed to know that they are not less than other kids, not stupid, just different.
For kids in special with intellectual disabilities, physical disabilities, or behavioral disabilities, some of the other books in the Survival Guide series would probably be more appropriate. This book is best suited for kids who don't fit obvious special ed categories but who receive special ed services because of the more hidden issues. Most kids won't want to read this book, but it can be used as a guide by counselors, special ed teachers, or parents to guide their student's understanding.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!