Becoming a Special Education Teacher
Becoming a special education teacher requires a level of dedication that places these professionals in a league of their own. A special education teacher understands students on a level that allows him or her to address their highly individualized needs and help them learn despite their circumstances. Special education teachers may encounter children with a broad spectrum of disabilities, including autism, Down’s syndrome, Asperger syndrome, physical disabilities and even multiple disabilities.
With such a wide range of students having individualized needs, special education teachers must work closely with student’s families, other teachers and school administrators to develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP). An IEP is a personalized agenda for each student that sets educational goals and caters specifically to that student’s needs. There is also a growing trend of special education teachers working with general education teachers in streamlined classrooms. As a child with special needs moves into a general classroom, special education teachers help general teachers modify lessons and techniques to meet the child’s needs.
To become a teacher for children with special needs, you must become certified and complete a special education teacher training program. Some states allow general education teachers to train in a specialty and then become a special education teacher. There are also states that offer alternative licensure programs to those who do not have experience with education. These programs usually include supervised instruction, an exam and one or two years of college courses while teaching with a licensed teacher.
Teaching jobs are on the rise for special education professionals (a 17% increase in special education teaching jobs is expected between 2008 and 2018). Many states already report a shortage of qualified special education teachers because, although the general enrollment of students in schools is growing more slowly than in the past, the enrollment of students with special needs continues to rise steadily. This is partially due to medical advances that allow for disabilities to be diagnosed at a younger age, as well as higher standards in training and greater qualifications for special education teachers.
The salary for a special education teacher is comparable to the teaching salary for general educators and there are many resources to specifically assist special education teachers, such as the National Association of Special Education Teachers and the American Academy of Special Education Professionals.
If you are looking to become a special education teacher, now is one of the best times to enter the field. It is a rewarding career with excellent prospects and, most importantly, one that has a huge impact on the lives of children.