Are you the kind of person who accepts the differences in others? Are you organized, patient, and able to understand and motivate? If you answered yes to these questions then you have exactly what it takes to be a special education teacher.
Special education teachers work with children and youths with varied disabilities and barriers to learning, including severe cognitive, emotional, and/or physical challenges. The majority, however, work with children that have mild to moderate disabilities and most instruct at the preschool, elementary, middle and secondary school level. Schools are not the only venue in which you will find a special education teacher as there are many non-profit organizations specializing in services for the disabled who benefit from the expertise of special education teachers.
Teaching methods include intensive individualized instruction, problem-solving assignments, and small-group work. Special education teachers are taught to identify and ensure that the appropriate accommodations are provided to those students who need them. These teachers are instrumental in developing an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for each of their students, outlining the students needs and abilities and goals for the upcoming school year.
Of course the classroom is not the only place you will find special education teachers as some work with infants and toddlers in the child’s home, with his or her parents. These services generally include helping the child develop social, language, motor, and cognitive skills through the use of play. The field is constantly evolving and technology is becoming more important with the use of synthesized speech computers and other interactive software programs.
Although this type of teaching can be very rewarding, it does have increased challenges and demands and can at times be physically draining. Many teachers are stressed due to the heavy workloads and the substantial documentation required for each of their students. Also adding to the stress of the job is the threat of litigation against the school district by parents who may not be satisfied with a child’s progress or the methods used.
Besides the education necessary to teach special education, many States require licensing along with a bachelor’s degree and the completion of an approved training program. Across the United States, you will find many colleges and universities offering programs in special education, not only at the undergraduate level, but the master’s and doctorate levels as well. Some institutions require a fifth year of study which is usually spent student teaching.
The employment outlook for special education teachers is very promising as it is expected to increase gradually through 2018. Much of this forecast is due to the alarming increase in the number of students needing these services and the fact that most districts report difficulty in finding qualified teachers to meet the growing need. Job opportunities are also increasing for those who specialize in areas such as autism for example.