Teaching of Individuals with Multiple Disabilities

Learn about teachers who focus on working with students who have multiple disabilities. Explore the job duties, employment outlook, salary potential and job requirements for this career field. Find out what you'd study in a special education degree program, and review the licensure or certification process for teachers.

Is Teaching Individuals with Multiple Disabilities For Me?

Career Overview

Students with more than one speech, physical, mental, social or behavior impairment are taught by special education teachers who specialize in multiple, or cross-categorical, disabilities education. Special education teachers work in mainstream classrooms as a resource, as well as in separated classrooms, residential schools or day schools. Special education teachers design and implement curriculum plans to provide each student with an appropriate education, in order to help them achieve to the best of their abilities.


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of jobs in the field of special education teaching is projected to grow 6% between 2012 and 2022 (www.bls.gov). As of 2012, the BLS reported median salaries of $52,480 for pre-school teachers, $53,820 for elementary special education teachers, $55,780 for middle school special education teachers and $56,830 for high school special education teachers. Job prospects are expected to be better in rural or inner city schools.

How Can I Teach Individuals with Multiple Disabilities?

Education and Licensing

All teachers must be licensed to teach and there are generally two ways to achieve this. Most teachers become certified by earning a degree in special education. Degree requirements vary by state, and you may need to earn a combined bachelor's and master's degree, which can take five years to complete. In most cases, you will specialize in several disabilities and focus on a specific age group, such as early childhood or middle school. Coursework for a degree in special education will include functional assessment and instruction in special education, family and professional collaboration, instructional techniques and assistive technologies. You will also need to pass a skills exam as required by your state and complete a student teaching practicum.

Alternatively, most states will provisionally certify you to teach while you earn formal certification. You will need to have a bachelor's degree, work under the direct supervision of a certified teacher and take any skills exams required by your state. Certification programs typically take two years, and may offer the option to earn a master's degree, which would require a third year to complete. Special education coursework would include behavior management and change, human development, advanced assessment and effective practices in special education. After you become certified, most states require that you continue to be mentored by a certified special education teacher for a year or two.

Continuing education is required for all teachers, and most teachers structure their hours so that they earn master's degrees in special education in the process. Teacher salary scales are generally designed so that you will earn additional pay with each 15 hour increment of continuing education. Doctoral degrees in special education or in educational leadership can lead to positions in special education administration or research.

Required Skills

This type of work requires compassion, creativity and perseverance. You will need excellent communication, collaborative and interpersonal skills, because you will be working with both other professionals and the families of your students. There is a great deal of documentation required with this job in order to assess and record student progress. You will also need to become certified to teach special education.

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