Book Review: Teaching Kids With Mental Health and Learning Disorders in the Regular Classroom - How to Recognize, Understand, and Help Challenged (and Challenging) Students Succeed

Author: Myles L. Cooley, Ph.D.

About This Book: Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Nonverbal Learning Disability (NVLD).  Dysthymia. Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). Asperger's Syndrome. Do you know what they are? Would you recognize them if you saw them? Would you know how to respond?

Mainstreaming was implemented with good intentions, but it left many teachers with the daunting task of helping students with mental health and learning disorders and related behavioral problems. Formerly taught in special education classes, these students are now in your classroom. If you don't always feel prepared or you sometimes feel overwhelmed, you're not alone. 

This accessible, ready-to-use guide describes mental health and learning disorders often observed in school children, explains how each might be exhibited in the classroom, and offers suggestions for what to do (and what not to do). -from the book jacket

Why It's On My Bookshelf: I'm starting to think maybe the greatest threat to education in the United States is teacher burnout. I don't think it's the children causing "teacher exodus."  Yes, it's true more and more classrooms each year are full of needy and challenging students. There are a lot of factors that go into burnout but blaming the children is not one of them. From my own personal experience as a school counselor, there seems to be a lack of strong preparation, training, and resources for educators in the area of mental health and learning disorders. Teaching Kids with Mental Health and Learning Disorders in the Regular Classroom is definitely part of the remedy to this problem.  When I discovered this resource, I immediately started putting it to good use.

Have you ever been in a student meeting where it feels like the "team" is not really on the same page? The intention to help the student is there, but the meeting gets off course or doesn't take a course. It can sometimes feel like there is a hush hushness about the disorder, confusion about the diagnosis, the "experts" are using different jargon that you don't understand, or there is too much time being spent on formalities like paperwork. It can feel very compartmentalized. I would highly recommend educators use this resource to relieve these problems so you can get to work on helping the student! It's an empowering tool that I absolutely love.

Each mental health and learning disorder is described concretely (about 3 paragraphs), provides behavior and symptoms to look for, and suggests easy classroom strategies and interventions to try. Educators work in busy and demanding jobs so tools that don't waste time are a must.  When the words "Receptive and Expressive Language Disorder" get thrown around - people can get lost.  It's great for giving a refresher about a disorder or disability. You don't need an intimidating 700 page psychiatric manual. But a practical resource like this guide can be a life saver. How many times have you been required to implement a plan for a student? It can be a frustrating process if you are under prepared. Use Teaching Kids with Mental Health and Learning Disorders in the Regular Classroom as part of your foundation for building the plan. A comment from a teacher after we read through the information on Tic Disorders, "That was great insight for the team." This is a solid resource and I've notice it helps my team feel more optimistic and supported.

If you have a professional learning library in your school, encourage your administrator to purchase a copy for your staff. It's definitely nice to have my own copy but it's not something to covet, make sure to share it with your colleagues when you see a need arise.

A final thought, this guide needs to be part of educator curriculums in graduate schools. I just can't stress this enough. If we want to set kids up for success, well lets set the teachers up first!

Find this title at Free Spirit Publishing. (this is one of my fave websites for educators)


  1. Interesting! I agree that teachers (even/especially teachers who are not going into SPED) should have more instruction on special needs and how to work with students that have special needs or any kind of struggles. I know in my teaching program, there was only a tiny portion of one class geared towards teaching students with special needs. Teachers need to be more equipped!

  2. It's so strange to me that teaching/education programs are not more focused on this issue. By no means should you be expected to be the "expert" on all things mental health but when you are spending 35-40 hours with students with special needs - it sure would be nice to have SOLID training or given resources that rock. I can't count how many times I've had a teacher (doesn't matter if they are new or been there for 30 yrs) step into my office and say, "I'm not sure if I'm gonna make it thru the year!" And these are some dang good teachers. I just feel like we set teachers up for failure sometimes. I'll keep posting more resources that rock. Oh, and I liked this once cuz it's CURRENT. I've also used it a lot to pre-prep myself and the teacher for a meeting.