Special Education Careers

The 7 Best Special Education Conferences and Workshops for Educators

The Council for Exceptional Children Conference is a stand-out for special education professionals. This conference includes workshops and seminars covering a broad range of important industry topics, like behavioral support, student advocacy, and IEP development.

Special education teachers can improve their classroom management and teaching skills through professional development. Conferences and workshops open the doors for that professional development while blending networking and collaboration opportunities for educators.

The conferences and workshops I cover below are some of the best for special education professionals to consider attending. These events allow special education teachers like you to share their experiences and wisdom with others through resources and support. Hosted by well-known special education organizations, the conferences and workshops in this guide also keep educators up-to-date with ever-evolving industry news, standards, and best practices. 

The 7 Best Special Education Conferences and Workshops for Educators

Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) Convention and Expo

The CEC Convention and Expo is an annual conference that provides networking and professional development opportunities for special education teachers. The conference includes in-person and virtual learning components, each packed with four days worth of seminars, activities, social hours, and workshops.

Attendees can choose to purchase tickets for the in-person and virtual events or just the virtual conference. The latter includes access to more than 300 on-demand sessions plus live activities for socialization and networking. 

The one potential downfall of this conference is that its costs are confusing, as they vary by each registrant’s member type. For instance, early career members pay $359 for the entire convention or $199 for one-day attendance. However, retired members pay $269 for the full convention or $179 for one day. Prices vary if you pay in person or pay by specific deadlines.

Overall, this conference provides the most content for educators compared to others on this list. Plus, you can choose which workshops and seminars to attend, depending on your professional needs and goals.

World Congress on Special Needs Education (WCSNE) Conference

The WCSNE Conference takes place in November each year. Until further notice, upcoming conferences will be held online, but the international conference typically occurs in different locations. Special educators can connect with industry experts from all over the world to discuss new research, network, and attend lectures for continued learning. 

The primary focus of this conference is special education research and best practices. Presenters register their panel discussions, research papers, workshops, and other learning materials to present during the conference.

In its current online format, the WCSNE Conference is more limited than usual. The in-person version hosts large exhibitions where special educators can learn more about higher learning institutions, educational technology, leadership, and more. However, online attendees can still access lectures and journal publications.

Participants can register online for £250 with early-bird pricing or £300 for regular pricing. 

Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA) Annual International Conference

LDA’s Annual International Conference is an in-person conference designed for special education teachers, social workers, school principals, and others involved in the special education system. The conference prepares professionals for continued development, provides current research and best practices, and promotes advocacy for special education students.

The four-day conference offers more than 150 workshops, seminars, and activities for attendees to pick and choose from. There’s also a pre-conference that targets a different topic each year, with the upcoming pre-conference covering mental health as it relates to at-risk students. 

Students and their parents may also attend the LDA conference to participate in the LDA Exhibit Hall. This six-hour event features exhibitions from colleges, universities, vocational schools, and other educational facilities with resources for special education students interested in higher learning. Exhibitions may also interest special education teachers looking for post-school resources for their students.

Members can attend the entire four-day conference and all events for $425 with early-bird registration or $475 by the regular registration deadline. Non-member pricing is $585 and $645, respectively, for early-bird and regular registration.

International Association of Special Education (IASE) Biennial Conference

The IASE’s Biennial Conference connects special educators, administrators, and policymakers from around the world. Topics cover the breadth of special education, from designing curriculum to meet the needs of students to the governance of special education. Transition services, early childhood education, and lifelong learning are also covered topics.

The activities throughout the four-day conference include lectures, roundtables, workshops, and presentations led by industry experts. Each session lasts between 30-60 minutes and targets one focus area: research, practice, or advancing policy/advocacy for special education students.

Registration costs for the conference vary by member type, registration date, and location. Most regular members pay $635 while pricing for most non-members increases to $685.

Learning Without Tears Professional Workshops

The Learning Without Tears program targets handwriting, keyboarding, and writing development for grades Pre-K through five. Educators can attend various workshops hosted by the company to help them implement the programs effectively and get the most out of students who work with them.

Learning Without Tears offers specific workshops for special education teachers to assist students with special needs with handwriting skills. Workshops include adapting your instruction to learners’ needs, dysgraphia training, and assessing handwriting skills. These workshops may not suit special education teachers in middle and high school grades, as the content is geared more toward early education and elementary students. 

Workshop trainers are nationally certified and have expertise in special needs therapy, early childhood education, and similar fields. Workshops occur in various locations across the United States and online. Registration rates vary, with shorter workshops falling around $50 and longer workshops costing about $200 or more. 

Wrightslaw Programs

Wrightslaw, an advocating organization for special education, produces training programs for special education teachers, administrators, specialists, and others who work with students with special needs. The Special Education Law & Advocacy Training Program is a popular one-day seminar or two-day bootcamp covering SMART IEPs, evaluations and assessments, and special education law. 

Registration fees vary between members, non-members, seminars, and bootcamps. When you register, your payment will also cover three required program textbooks. The programs are available on several dates throughout the year in different U.S. locations.

The Wrightslaw From Emotions to Advocacy training is a one-day program for parents and guardians of children in the special education system. This program teaches parents to become advocates by explaining the IEP process and developing relationships with the IEP team and other professionals who work with the child. Educators may find it helpful to recommend this program to their students’ parents or guardians or attend with them.

International Conference on Autism, Intellectual Disability & Developmental Disabilities

The CEC’s Division on Autism & Developmental Disabilities (DADD) hosts the International Conference on Autism, Intellectual Disability & Developmental Disabilities. This annual conference has taken place in Florida, Hawaii, and other states.

Attendees can expect to liaise with notable special education experts who are well-versed in autism and developmental disabilities. The conference features an exhibit hall, over 300 interactive lectures and activities, and networking luncheons. Topics include current disability research, best practices for educators, and tips for improving educational outcomes for special education students.

This three-day conference gives plentiful information for educators who work with children on the autism spectrum. However, professionals who don’t work with these students as frequently may not get as much from this conference as they would from a more generalized special education conference, like the CEC Convention and Expo. 

Registration fees range from $200-$350 for the conference, but attendees can save money by bundling pre-conference training and main conference fees together.

How Do I Decide Which Special Education Conference or Workshop Is the Best for Me?

When deciding which special education conferences and workshops to add to your schedule, here are a few points you might want to consider.

Special Education Topics

While some conferences include activities and seminars on more general special education topics, others have a narrower focus, like a specific disability or a specific teaching method. You likely have your reasons for wanting to attend a conference, so it’s essential that the conference’s goals and topics align with what you want to learn.

Before registering, look on the conference’s website to view an itinerary, if available. If you can’t find one, locate contact information for a representative to ask about the topics a conference will cover.

Location

Is the conference held entirely online? Will it be in-person at a venue near you, or will you need to travel a long distance to get there? These are important points to consider for three reasons:

  1. Time away from work. If long-distance travel is a must, you may need to take extra time off work for traveling in addition to the conference dates. 
  2. Costs associated with travel. Traveling to another state can add extra costs to your conference budget.
  3. Your learning style. Not everyone can absorb information when they attend conferences online. Some prefer face-to-face instruction and the more collaborative and connective experience that in-person meetings offer.

Professional Development and Networking Opportunities

The best conferences provide plenty of opportunities for learning and networking. Ensure that the conference you’re interested in attending has space in its itinerary for networking events in addition to seminars and workshops. 

Also, check that the seminars and workshops can really help you develop yourself as a special education teacher. Do they cover topics relevant to you? Are they hosted by experts that you can learn from? The conference content should make you confident that you can take back lots of helpful, actionable strategies to your classroom.

Conference Costs 

Some conferences are much costlier than others, especially those that pack tons of content into three or four days. Typically, virtual conferences are more affordable than in-person events. You may also need to budget for meals, travel, and lodging if attending an in-person event. It’s crucial to consider all associated costs to determine if an event fits your budget.

To save money, consider a few common discounts. Usually, members of the hosting organization can attend for lower registration costs than non-members. Also, look into early-bird pricing that rewards registrants with lower costs for registering early.

You might also be able to ask your employer to cover some of the costs. Because professional development is a requirement for special education teachers, some organizations and schools will pay for educators to attend conferences and workshops.

Highlights: Special Education Conferences and Workshops

I recommend the CEC Convention and Expo because most special education teachers can get lots of helpful information out of it. The event includes numerous opportunities for learning and networking, which are extremely important in our field. A close second is LDA’s Annual International Conference, which packs a lot of well-rounded information into its four-day itinerary. 

The WCSNE Conference is best for educators seeking a more cultured approach to professional development and networking with special education leaders worldwide. Wrightslaw programs are perfect for organizations wishing to train their special education teachers and administrators together.

Teachers who work with children with developmental disabilities can focus on relevant topics at DADD’s International Conference on Autism, Intellectual Disability & Developmental Disabilities. And, the Learning Without Tears workshops target handwriting and writing skills in special needs students, which is perfect for teachers wanting to expand their instructional strategies in those areas.

Conclusion

I hope you’re able to attend one or more of these conferences. I always learn something new whenever I attend a great conference and most importantly, I feel invigorated in my work supporting students with disabilities. If you have attended one of the listed conferences above, leave a comment below and share with our readers what some of the highlights were. If there are some great conferences that I missed that you feel deserve to be included, please share! As always, let me know if you have any questions!

About the author

Emily Cummings

I am a mom of two crazy, amazing, independent, little feminists. They bring so much light to my life and a lot less sleep. Since becoming a mother and increasingly in the last year, I have witnessed parents struggling to connect with their child's special education team with no success. I have become more aware of the gaps in our public school system and how parents may benefit from empowerment and advocacy tools.

My work experiences range from a juvenile detention center to an autism specialist in the Issaquah School District and a special education teacher in a self-contained program in the Lake Washington School District. My master's in teaching focused on special education and behavioral disorders from Seattle Pacific University. I completed my BCBA coursework from Montana State University.

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