An Inside Look at the Special Education Profession

Special education professionals work to promote students’ overall behavioral, social and academic growth. Special education professionals aide students in developing socially appropriate behavior within their family, school and community. Teachers of special education help students become more confident in their social interactions. Special education professionals administer activities that build students’ life skills.

What Does the Job Entail?

Are you interested in helping others? Can you handle and care for people who learn differently and have other behavioral problems? Do you want to make a difference in a young child’s life? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you might consider a career in special education. Below is a breakdown of the short and long-term responsibilities of a special education teacher.

First and foremost, special education teachers focus on the development and academic needs of children with disabilities. They encourage learning in disabled students by implementing educational modules and behavioral techniques. Special education teachers work alone or with general education teachers to individualize lessons, develop problem-solving techniques and integrate children into group projects with other students. Furthermore, special education teachers are responsible for ensuring that the needs of disabled children are met during assessment periods.

Did you know that special education teachers work with a team of professionals, qualified staff and family in order to fulfill their job requirements? It is true. In fact, special education teachers work in conjunction with these entities to create an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for each student. An IEP is designed in collaboration with a child’s parents, school principal, social worker, speech pathologist and general education teacher to ensure effective implementation. An IEP targets a student’s needs and growth areas for maximum response. The specialized goals set by the IEP are woven throughout all aspects of a child’s daily activities. Teachers of special education must monitor a child’s setbacks and progress and report back to parents and administrators. Planned goals and tasks are outlined for family members to refer to while a student is at home as well.

The types of disabilities a special education teacher might encounter are difficult to predict. For one, the qualifications for special education services vary greatly from mild disabilities to extreme cases of mental retardation or autism. Types of disabilities include, but are not limited to, the following: speech impairments, hearing disabilities, emotional disturbances, orthopedic impairments, brain trauma cases, blindness, deafness and learning disabilities.

Do You Exhibit These Qualities?

Now that you have an idea of the job’s demands, let’s see if you have the right qualities to be a special education teacher.

Recognize the symptoms and needs of special needs students

Patience

Ability to work with one or more parties to achieve short-term and long-term goals

Strong communication skills

Ability to motivate others

Ability to multi-task

Knowledge of the most recent education modules, medical research and behavioral practices

Creativity
Knowledge of the latest medical technology relevant to special education

Taking the Next Step toward a New Career

Once you have decided to enter the field of special education, you will need to follow several steps. Due to the specialization of the field, special education teachers in all 50 states must receive licensure before employment. Licensures are approved by each state’s board of education, and the requirements for certification differ between states. Nevertheless, the growing shortage of special education teachers has led institutions of higher education to offer more special education degree and certification programs. In fact, special education degrees are offered at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels throughout the nation. Not to mention, the booming field of distance learning has made certification more accessible from any location in the United States.

In many cases, hopeful special education professionals do not meet the requirements of special education licensure due to their prior completion of degree programs outside of the field of education. Therefore, several states have begun to offer alternate forms of certification. The hope of these programs is to attract new special education professionals and fill the growing need for teachers. The chance to positively impact the lives of special needs children is one of the driving motivations and benefits of entering this field.

After several years, some special education teachers look for new opportunities within their field. In the most common situations, special education professionals transfer to administrative or supervisory positions. Others, after receiving a higher degree, become college professors and educate new students in the field of special education. Experienced teachers of special needs students have also moved up to serve as mentors to incoming special education teachers.

As for the future of special education and employment, there are many changes on the horizon. Most significantly, the job market in special education, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), is projected to “increase faster than the average of all occupations by 2014.” Due to the new emphasis on education and training in legislature, special education professionals will become even more valued.

Can I Make a Living as a Special Education Teacher?

As mentioned previously, the special education job market is on the rise. In 2004, the BLS reported 441,000 employed special education teachers in the nation. While only 6 percent worked within private schools, over 90 percent were employed by public schools or districts. In rare cases, special education professionals were involved in home or hospital care.

What You Should Know About Teaching Special Education

Special Education for me is a challenging vocation for it caters to individuals with disabilities. Through this type of education, students with disabilities are educated effectively.

I read a line from an article years ago that states: “It is said that a society can be judged by the way it treats those who are different.”

In a democratic society it is believed that every individual is valuable in his own right and should be afforded equal opportunities to develop his potentials. The provision of special education will empower families to build future for their children, normal and special alike.

It was said that “teaching” is what special education is most about.

The role of the Special Education (SPED) teacher is very crucial. The SPED teacher has the responsibility not only to teach the regular classroom stuff like reading, writing, math etc, but also Activities of Daily Living and peer socialization.

An important part of a special education teacher’s job is the early identification of a child with special needs, intervention is vital in educating children with special needs because as time goes on children who are not coping or who struggle in the general curriculum can be negatively affected.

A SPED educator’s job is also challenging. Special education teachers work with children and youths who have a variety of disabilities. I also find this vocation fulfilling, for, it provides the opportunity to establish meaningful relationships with special kids.

Although helping these students can be highly rewarding, the work also can be emotionally and physically draining. SPED teachers work under the threat of litigation against the school or district by parents if correct procedures are not followed or if they feel that their child is not receiving an adequate education.

A SPED educator should be well-guarded by the laws. Understanding and practicing the laws will ensure a safe and legal environment for both the special child and SPED teacher.

A special educator’s battlecry should be “commitment”. Commitment spells equitable and excellent classroom. Without commitment to the chosen vocation, one won’t be able to do his/ her job well.

But, teachers cannot do it alone. Teaching is a collaborative effort between the educator, student, parents/ family and the community. SPED educators, should express desire to be the parents’ partner in the development of the special child.

As teachers, trying to reach out beyond the school to promote trust and understanding, and build partnerships with all segments of the school community is significant. Being active in associations/ causes supporting the special child/ special education can be a good start.

I would like to quote Robert Pasternack, Ph.D., Assistant Secretary Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services,U.S. Department of Education. He said:

“Some of the kids that are in special education are not, in fact, kids with disabilities. They are, in fact, instructional casualties. They are, in fact, kids who haven’t been taught successfully using scientifically validated instructional approaches and research validated curricula in the general education system and general education settings.”

With that, I have the following implications to education of children with special needs:

States will put a premium on Reading — to deliver scientifically validated and scientifically based reading research, validated curricula and instructional strategies in classrooms.
Continuous and more additional trainings for teachers. If professional development will be given to teachers, if it’s sustained, if it’s systematic, if it’s embedded in what teachers do, then, in fact, we can go ahead and improve the capacity of teachers to address the learning needs of the heterogeneous groups of kids that they have in front of them on a daily basis.
If you are looking for a school that: Is committed to enriching the lives of our diverse population; Works to meet learner and community needs in a mutually supportive partnership; Has competent teachers, therapists, staff & facilities; Is accessible and safe; and

Special Education and the Importance of Collaboration

Collaboration means working with an individual or a group of individuals to achieve a common goal. Its importance is most visible in education. Every day, teachers work together with their peers, school counselors, and other staff for the success of each student. And when it comes to special education, collaboration becomes the single most important thing for a teacher.

A teacher for special education has to collaborate with school administrators, general education teachers, school therapists, psychologists, and parents and guardians. Students with mild disability have now been included in regular classroom teaching, according to the provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education (IDEA) Act. This has led to general and special education teachers working together, often with the help of the best fun educational apps. The role of the educator in a general classroom, involves teaching the curriculum and assessing and evaluating special children. It’s important that a the educator brings in a set of personal skills to enhance student learning. Skills of both the general teacher and the special educator should come together to help a student.

A special educator has to work closely with the school management. It’s a vital part of the job. Working with the management will help the special teacher follow the necessary laws and procedure, work with individualized education plan (IEP), and make sure that special children are accommodated in the appropriate classroom. It’s always important to forge a strong relationship with these people for ensuring the success of a special student.

Working with parents is a major challenge for all special education teachers. It’s important to make strong and regular contact. It’s a nice idea to allow parents come and volunteer in the classroom, so that both the educator and the parent can help the children. A special child can obviously relate more to a parent. If parents explain the use of the best fun educational apps for kids, it’s likely to be more believable to the children.

Working with school therapists and psychologists is another key collaboration of a special educator. A therapist can inform the educator about the limitations of a special child. He/she may even recommend the best fun educational apps for kids so that special children pick up social skills faster. The educator, on his/her part, can update the therapist on how a child is progressing. The therapist is also responsible for diagnosis of a special child.

The work of the school psychologist is also largely similar. They too test children for disabilities and ensure that the IEP is being properly followed.