Anyone considering a teaching career will have the opportunity to explore becoming a special education teacher. The demand for these dedicated teachers continues to grow. In fact, between 2008 and 2018, job openings for special ed teachers are expected to increase by 17 percent, faster than the average for other jobs. Although students enrollment is expected to be down in those years, the number of students needing special education services is expected to grow. Much of this increase is due to legislation passed in the areas of training and employment for people with disabilities. New technology is enabling educators to diagnose learning disabilities at an earlier age as well. This technology is also making teachers who have computer and interactive software skills in high demand. Most of these teaching jobs are expected to be at the elementary and pre-school level, but the prospects for middle school teachers is almost as good. High school special education teachers and those who work with toddlers and infants round out the job field.
The children who need special education services have a wide variety of disabilities. Some have severe cognitive, emotional, and physical disabilities. These teachers work with students on life skills and basic literacy. Children with mild to moderate disabilities need remedial help with mainstream curriculum.
There are many types of disabilities:
- Learning disabilities
- Speech and language impairments
- Mental retardation
- Emotional disturbance
- Hearing and visual impairments
- Orthopedic impairments
- Traumatic brain injury
Special education teachers help identify special needs and then use specific techniques to promote learning. Many work with students in small groups, and other provide individual attention. When a child is identified as having special needs, a special education teacher works with the parents to develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for that child. The IEP sets goals and outlines the steps needed to prepare the student for learning, transitioning to middle or high school, post-secondary learning, or a job. The IEP is reviewed by the child’s parents, school administrators and general education teachers.
Once an IEP is in place, the special education teacher is involved in many aspects of the child’s development — behavioral, social, and academic. An important part of the job is to help with disabled students’ emotional development and social interaction. Their efforts are not only focused on book learning. They help students learn life skills as well.
For anyone looking into a career in special education, there are many resources provided by The National Association of Special Education Teachers.