What Is Special Education?

Special education programs provide the proper support, services and special environments to meet the educational needs of disabled children. Children with a wide range of disabilities qualify for these programs. Read on to find out more about special education and the careers available in this field. Schools offering Emotional & Behavioral Disorders degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is Special Education?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) defines special education as a specially designed education plan, provided at no cost, to children with disabilities in order to meet their unique needs. Services are provided at a level determined by individual needs and legislative mandates.

Important Facts About Special Education Teachers

Online AvailabilityFull coursework online; student teaching in-person
Common CoursesDiagnosis and assessment, program development, teaching strategies, disability characteristics
Continuing EducationRequired by many states to maintain license
SpecializationsEarly childhood, autism spectrum disorders, gifted, emotional disturbance
Median Salary (2018)$59,780 (Special Education Teachers)
Job Outlook (2016-2026)8% growth (Special Education Teachers)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Who Qualifies?

The IDEA reports that children need special education services when they suffer from visual and hearing impairments, speech disorders, developmental disabilities, neurological conditions, physical disabilities and emotional problems. If a child is suspected of falling into one of these categories, the child is evaluated. The evaluation includes a team from the school and at least one parent or guardian. The team considers functional, developmental and academic information, as well as information provided by the parent or guardian.

Teaching Careers in Special Education

The majority of individuals interested in a career in special education enter the field as teachers. Most work with children who have mild to moderate disabilities at the elementary and secondary school level. A smaller number work with younger children. Special education teachers are involved in students' academic, behavioral and social development. These teachers develop appropriate problem-solving assignments, individualized instruction plans and small-group work. They also arrange any special accommodations for the student, such as preferential seating or assistance with taking notes.

Training for Special Education Teachers

A bachelor's degree program that includes specialized courses in special education is normally required to teach in this area. However, some employers require a master's degree or some graduate study in special education. Programs usually include a period of supervised student teaching. All states require licensure for special education teachers in public schools. Licensure requirements generally include a bachelor's degree, a set number of credits in a particular subject and a period of student teaching.

Other Careers in Special Education

There are a number of other career paths related to special education. The Council for Exceptional Children provides information on a variety of options, including physical therapist, school counseling, speech therapy and assistive technology specialist. Many of these careers require additional training and certification.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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