Successful special education careers don’t all look identical. In the field of special education, there are a number of individuals currently working who have had a huge impact on children, families and teachers across the globe. They use their special education degrees to spread knowledge: by speaking, writing books, blogging and sharing their expertise on social media, beyond their own direct networks. Influencers like these come from varied backgrounds, specialties and positions, but helping kids learn is their common goal.
Carrie Clark’s career as a speech-language pathologist began in graduate school at Truman State University. She worked at the Columbia Public Schools in Columbia, MS, and went on to open her own private practice. She founded the widely read blog Speech and Language Kids to educate families on how to best help their special needs children – “my superpower is breaking down complex speech and language research into actionable, step-by-step plans,” she says as a welcome message on her website.
Dr. Frederick Covington
Dr. Frederick B. Covington is an occupational therapist with a degree from Howard University and is now an award-winning inventor, lecturer, app developer and author. He works with children with a range of abilities, including intellectual impairments, behavioral problems, ADHD, OCD, sensory integration deficits, learning disabilities and executive functional disorders. He’s focused on holistic patient care; as he says, “Treat the patient, not the diagnosis.”
Autism awareness blogger and special needs parent Rob Gorski created the multiple award-winning blog the Autism Dad blog (formerly Lost and Tired) in 2010. In 2013, he was named the third-most influential autism blogger on the internet by Sharecare.
As Rob explains on LinkedIn, “My oldest is extremely medically fragile with unbelievably rare conditions … I live for my wife and kids, as well as helping others in the Autism and special needs community … My goal is to use my success to not only help my family move forward in life but also help as many other families within the special needs community as possible.”
Dr. Katrina Keene is a school leader and education strategist who researches and integrates new technologies into classrooms to help special ed students succeed. As Director of Innovation at a College Preparatory School, she was responsible for student achievement through technology integration. She received a master’s of education degree from Walden University and went on to become the co-founder of Edventure Quests, a MIEExpert, founder of #tntechchat and #edcampleadtn, and can be found in several well-known EdTech publications, blogs and podcasts. “Katrina’s passion for technology and education is strengthened through the phenomenal educators she works with every day,” she says on her website.
Dr. Matthew Lynch
Dr. Matthew Lynch is an educator and prominent advocate for students and children with special needs. He received a master’s degree and doctorate in education from Jackson State University, and a certificate of executive leadership from Hampton University. On the university level, Dr. Lynch works with special ed instructors to increase their understanding of technology integration strategies to help their students learn. His research concentrates on school reform, closing the achievement gap and improved teacher education. He runs his own consulting group and edits the Edvocate and Tech Edvocate.
Kennedy School for Government graduate Michelle Rhee began her special education career as a teacher in the Baltimore school district. She went on to found StudentsFirst, a nonprofit that advocates for education reform (which has since merged with another education advocacy organization, 50Can). “While teaching elementary school … I saw firsthand how an excellent education changes lives,” she says on LinkedIn. “That’s why I’ve made it my life’s work to provide this to every child in this country, no matter their ZIP code, race or socioeconomic background. There is no excuse not to.”
In all their various fields, these eight influencers demonstrate the potential those who work in special education can have. Special education degrees helped jumpstart their careers, but for each of these individuals, their love for the children they worked with drove them to new professional heights.
Learn more about special education career paths.