Teaching of Individuals - Developmentally Delayed

If you're interested in early elementary education and would like to help young children with developmental delays fulfill their potential, a career in special education may be right for you. Read on for more information about employment and professional requirements for special education teachers.

Is Teaching Developmentally Delayed Individuals for Me?

Career Overview

Children with developmental delays face challenges that can be physical, social, cognitive, emotional or communicative. Diagnosis of these delays typically happens early, and federal mandates have made special educational help available for children between the ages of three and nine, although, in some cases, younger children receive help. Special education teachers who want to work with developmentally delayed children train to teach and work with young children and their families to facilitate their development.

To teach children who are developmentally delayed, you can earn a bachelor's degree in early childhood studies. Alternatively, you can enroll in a master's program in education, which can lead to a Master of Arts or a Master of Science in Early Childhood with a concentration in developmentally delayed children. Professional licensing requirements in most states require a master's degree in special education.

Employment and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of special education teachers is expected to grow by 6% between 2012 and 2022. As of May 2012, the median salary of special education teachers at the pre-K and elementary levels was $53,910. Those teaching at the middle and high school levels earned $56,300 and $56,920 respectively. The demand for special education teachers was projected to be higher in inner city and rural areas (www.bls.gov).

How Can I Work as a Teacher of Developmentally Delayed Students?

Educational Requirements

All states require special education teachers to earn certification. A bachelor's degree in special education may qualify you to work in some schools or in preschool or child advocacy roles. Coursework may include the study of risk factors for disabilities, assessments and team models. You'll also have to complete a professional practicum. If the program does not lead to licensure, you may have to pursue a post-bachelor's or master's degree program.

Master's degrees in special education are increasingly becoming the standard for teacher certification. To meet this requirement, many universities offer combined bachelor's and master's degree programs in special education that take five years to complete and allows for additional training and classroom observation time.

Master's Degree Programs

You may seek a special education master's degree in early childhood and/or elementary education with a focus on developmental delays. Special education coursework will most likely cover topics in early intervention and developmentally delayed children, curriculum for developmentally delayed preschoolers and collaborative early intervention. You'll also study developmental constructs, early intervention health and medical issues, while learning about the importance of professional and parent collaboration. Topics in child growth and development, as well as a student teaching experience, will also be included.

Alternative Options

If you have a bachelor's degree in another major, but would like to enter the field, most states allow you to begin teaching while you're earning a master's degree in special education. Teaching takes place under the supervision of a certified teacher, and the program must be completed within a specified amount of time. Once certified, you'll continue to work under the oversight of a mentor for another year or two.

Continuing Education

Continuing professional education credits are necessary to retain certification. As a special education teacher, you might go on to earn special education endorsements in other disability specialties. As a result, you'll be qualified to work with students who have multiple disabilities, which can open a variety of different doors in the field. Earning a doctoral degree in special education can prepare you to lead a special education department, perform research or to teach at the college level.

Required Skills

As a special education teacher, you'll need to be organized, creative and patient. The ability to work collaboratively with a team of professionals, adapting or creating curriculum and therapies to help meet your students' needs, is also important. Good communication and interpersonal skills are key, especially when working closely with students' families.

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