Special needs teachers work with students of all ages. They work with children who have a wide range of learning, mental, emotional, and physical disabilities. Some special education teachers work with students who have mild or moderate disabilities and are included in general education classrooms. Other special education teachers work with students who have severe disabilities in self-contained classrooms.
Before you can become a special education teacher you will need to earn the proper degree, gain the necessary experience and pass your state certification exam.
Special education teachers help give students with learning or physical disabilities the skills they need to succeed in life. They develop and modify curriculums to fit the needs of their students and they also provide academic instruction, oversee classroom activities and teach basic skills such as reading and writing. Special education teachers may also be called upon to collaborate with other teachers, parents and administrators on IEP (individualized educational plans) for each student. In addition, some special education teachers provide individualized instruction to small groups of students or one-on-one tutoring sessions to help them better understand specific subjects.
In some states, you may also be required to have an endorsement in special education. This typically means that you have completed advanced coursework in special education and gained experience working with special needs students.
There are many ways to gain experience working with special needs children. Many states require teachers to spend time as student teachers or student aides before becoming full-fledged teachers. You can also volunteer at local schools or community centers for children with special needs or work as a nanny for children with special needs.
The first step is earning a bachelor’s degree in special education or a related field. Your major can be tailored to support the specific type of student population you are interested in working with, such as students with learning disabilities or those who are deaf or hard of hearing.
After graduating from your bachelor’s program, you must complete a teacher training program that is aligned with your state’s Department of Education guidelines and includes both classroom instruction and clinical experience. Many schools offer courses online due to the convenience they offer, allowing you to earn your teaching license while maintaining family and work obligations.
You will also need to pass a certification exam required by your state in order to teach special education at the elementary, middle or high school level. While it may seem like an overwhelming process, these programs are designed to provide comprehensive training so you can pursue this rewarding career path as quickly as possible.
If you’re interested in this career, the first step is to make sure you have the right skills. You’ll need to be able to assess each student’s strengths and weaknesses, communicate effectively with students and parents alike, and use your problem-solving skills to help determine the best plan for each child.
The next step is to complete your training and education requirements. Some states require that special education teachers have a master’s degree before they can begin teaching.