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10 Benefits of Teaching Special Education

Thinking about becoming a special education teacher?

Wondering if it’s the right career choice for you?

While teaching special education definitely comes with some unique challenges, the truth is that there are a lot of big benefits to the career as well. Few people realize how rewarding becoming a special ed teacher can be and just how much it can positively influence your life.

Luckily, this article is here to help. Below we’ll give you an overview of the top benefits of teaching special education and tell you why it may be the right career choice for you.

1. You’ll Have a Specialized Skill

One of the benefits of becoming a special education teacher is that it will require you to have a more advanced education and specialized knowledge that other teachers don’t have. You’ll have to be licensed to teach special education and this extra education can help you stand out in the job market.

More job opportunities will become available to you and you’ll have a much better resume that you can use when it comes time to look for new positions. As a result of becoming certified and teaching special ed, you’ll become a much more marketable teacher.

Even if you move on from teaching special ed later on in life, your experiences as a special ed teacher will shape your skills and continue to influence your career in big ways.

2. Special Ed Teachers Are in High Demand

If you want to gain a high amount of job security, becoming a special ed teacher is one of the best ways you can do it. Special education teachers are harder to come by than the average teacher and because of that, you’ll be in high demand.

When it comes time for a job search, whether you’re moving across the country or looking for a job close to home, you’ll often find that it goes very smoothly and is over quickly. There are also plenty of jobs that you can do outside of the classroom as well.

3. Work Days Will Be Shorter

One extra perk of working in special education is that, in many cases, your workday will be much shorter. Special education school days are typically a bit shorter in length than average. Along with that, there is also plenty of flexibility in how you can arrange class schedules and the course curriculum.

While the work can be hard, having a little bit less time at school can be a great perk that can give you the rest and relaxation you need after a hard day of teaching.

4. You’ll Develop Great Relationships With Students

When you work as a special ed teacher, few things can compare to the close relationships you’ll form with your students. You wouldn’t always get the same opportunity to form deep relationships with other types of students like you can as a special education teacher.

Your students’ relationships with you will be a big part of what matters as a special education teacher. You’ll find yourself caring for your children deeply and celebrating their successes as your time with them goes on and as you get more chances to further their education.

5. There’s a Better Adult-to-Child Ratio

While it’s not always the case, when teaching special education there is often a much better ratio of teachers to students. For many teachers, this is a big plus since managing a big classroom full of students can be difficult.

While teaching special ed comes with its challenges, having a smaller focus on a limited number of students can be a better alternative to dealing with a large classroom full of students. While only a few special education students can often be just as difficult to deal with, in other moments it can be a much simpler experience.

6. There Will Be More Individualized Education

You’ll also find that it’s a necessity to give each student plenty of individualized attention when you teach special education. Each child will be different and will have different capabilities. You’ll also be working with students at various grade levels.

Big classrooms make it hard to spend one-on-one time with each student and instead teachers usually have to adopt a one size fits all approach out of necessity.

If you would rather focus on giving your all to a few individual students, then special education will give you that opportunity. No matter what your special education specialization is, you’re likely to have a lot of time to focus on each student along with their specific needs and challenges.

7. You’ll Get to Teach the Students Who Need It Most

By becoming a special education teacher, you’ll get a chance to reach the students who are most in need of help. While all students can benefit from strong educational support, children who are in special education need it even more.

By becoming one of their teachers, you’ll be able to know that you’re making a big difference in their lives. You’ll be educating and caring for the children who need your love and support most of all and will develop stronger teaching skills and capabilities as a result.

8. You’ll Go Beyond the Classroom

When you become a special education teacher, you’ll usually be a lot more than that. You’ll also become their advocate and will have to communicate with other people in the students’ lives.

You’ll often be communicating with parents as well as health professionals and other educators to care for the student. You’ll team up with these people to ensure that a student is not only getting a great education but that their other needs are being met as well.

As a special education teacher, you’ll be influencing many areas of a child’s life and impacting them in ways that extend beyond the classroom.

9. You’ll Be Able to See The Impact Firsthand

By teaching special education students you’ll also be able to see the impact you have on students firsthand. Oftentimes, you’ll spend several years with a student. You may even teach them for the entire time they spend at your school.

When you’re not a special education teacher, this usually isn’t the case. You won’t spend the same amount of time with a typical student who has a different teacher as they move from grade to grade.

On the other hand, working as a special ed teacher will often give you a better chance to see your students grow and learn over the course of time. It also allows you to see the full impact of the work you’ve done to get them to where they are.

10. It’s a Rewarding Experience

Few things can be as rewarding as working with special needs students. You’ll know that you’ll be making a difference in the life of some great kids who need it more than most.

You’ll be able to rest assured knowing that at the end of the day you’ve made good use of your time as a teacher. You’ll see that you have been able to impact others in a positive way.

The truth is that the relationships you form with students are everything and knowing that you impacted their lives and their families’ lives in a positive way is a great feeling.

Ready to Start Teaching Special Education?

Teaching special education can be very challenging. However, teachers who have never done it don’t realize just how rewarding it can be as well. If you’re trying to make the decision of whether you should teach special ed, then consider the above points carefully. Your decision may become a lot easier.

Looking for more teaching and career resources? Check out our resources section now for more great tips and insights.

Disability Awareness and Bullying prevention

There’s a reason education professionals strive for as much inclusion as possible for kids with disabilities. Being in a diverse environment is an educational experience for kids of all ages. It lets them learn about people who are different from them and find ways to get along.

At the same time, an inclusive environment will always come with some hurdles. As sad as it is, we tend to see bullying issues any time there’s a large group of kids. It happens even more when we bring kids with disabilities into the mix, though.

How do you face these issues head-on? It’s important to have a frank discussion with all kids about bullying prevention. It might be a challenging subject, but these tips will help.

How to Talk to Kids with Disabilities About Bullying Prevention

As a special education professional, you may be dealing with bullying prevention on a regular basis. Here are some tips to keep in mind while you discuss bullying with your students.

Explain Both Sides of the Coin

Many people assume that kids with disabilities are the ones who get bullied and that neurotypical kids are the bullies. While this does tend to be the most common scenario, it’s not always the case.

While you want to talk to your students about what to do if they’re getting bullied, don’t neglect to talk about why bullying is wrong. It’s just as important to make sure they know not to be bullies as it is to help protect them from becoming victims.

Explain That It Isn’t Their Fault if They Get Bullied

One of the most common problems facing kids who are bullied is the assumption that they’ve brought it on themselves. Too many adults say things like, “If you didn’t act so weird, they wouldn’t bully you.”

The #1 cause of bullying is bullies, plain and simple. You don’t want kids to think that if they want to be themselves, it gives others the permission to abuse them.

Make sure your students know that if they get bullied, it isn’t their fault and they don’t need to change who they are.

Talk About What Constitutes Bullying

Another common problem with bullying is that kids don’t actually know that they’re bullying someone. They might think they’re picking on a friend in a playful way but they’ve crossed the line into bullying.

Make it clear that it isn’t okay to pick on other kids, regardless of what the intentions are. While bullying is defined by a pattern of behavior, it’s a slippery slope from the occasional mean-spirited “prank.”

It’s also important to explain that bullying doesn’t need to be a physical action. Words alone can be a form of bullying that is more traumatic to kids than physical abuse.

Tell Them What to Do if They See or Experience Bullying

When your students have a clear understanding of what bullying is, it’s important to give them actionable instructions, too. Tell them what to do if they see bullying or experience it themselves.

Make sure kids know that it’s important to report bullying if they see it happening to someone else. If they don’t, they’re hurting the victim by allowing the abuse to continue.

Don’t Wait Until Something Happens

Too many parents and education professionals put off “the bullying talk” too long. They tend to think they have more time before their kids have to worry about it.

If you wait until something happens, you’ll guarantee that your students will have at least one situation when they don’t know what to do. The key is to educate kids about bullying before they can form bad habits or get into a situation when they may react in violence.

How to Talk to Neurotypical Kids About Disability Awareness and Bullying Prevention

In some schools, you’ll only spend time with kids with disabilities. In other cases, though, schools may recognize that you’re a resource for bullying prevention with neurotypical kids as well.

If you’re in a position to discuss bullying with neurotypical kids, here are some tips to help.

Educate Them About Kids with Disabilities

One of the largest reasons neurotypical kids bully kids with disabilities is a lack of understanding. They don’t recognize what their disability is or that it may be the reason they seem “weird.”

Education alone will go a long way toward creating a cooperative and safe environment. Talk to neurotypical students about various disabilities their peers might have, from autism spectrum disorders and Down syndrome to physical impairments.

Define Bullying

As with your students with disabilities, many neurotypical kids who are bullies don’t realize they’re bullying. To them, it might seem like good fun while it creates fear and anxiety for the victim.

Discuss examples of bullying with the kids and answer any questions they have about it. Explain to them that if they’re questioning whether something is okay, it’s probably not okay.

Talk About the Impacts Bullying Can Have

This is a touchy subject. Some parents and educators think suicide is too heavy of a subject for their students.

The reality is that it’s something they deal with at an early age. The youngest documented suicide victim is a 6-year-old girl. Kids as young as 8 and 9 have committed suicide that we know to be the direct result of bullying.

As unpleasant as it is, kids need to understand the real risks of bullying. You don’t need to get graphic, but you need to explain to them that it can have serious consequences.

In addition to suicide, it’s important to explain the other potential effects of bullying. Discuss the results of low self-esteem, higher risks for drug use, poor academic performance, and more.

Explain What to Do if They See or Experience Bullying

As with your special education students, you need to give neurotypical kids actionable instructions. Explaining what bullying is and why it’s bad won’t help much if they don’t know what to do if they see it happening.

Tackling Bullying Prevention Before It’s a Problem

Total bullying prevention isn’t practical. Still, there are plenty of ways you can cut down on bullying in your school and the tips above can help.

For more advice that will help you with your special education career, check out our online resources.

7 Reasons to Use Visual Supports in the Early Childhood ESE Classroom

Visual Supports Assist Young Students in Comprehending Their Environment

Students with language delays often have difficulty understanding and processing verbal language. A picture rich classroom environment can ease anxiety, empower students and help them build social skills.

While it takes some effort up front for teachers to build a visual rich classroom, the payoff is definitely worth it.

Here are 7 reasons to bring visuals into the early childhood classroom:

  1. A lanyard with visual supports to use in a classroom or therapy room as a management tool.

    A lanyard with visual supports to use in a classroom or therapy room as a management tool.
    Photo from asdeducation.com

    Establish routines
    Having a classroom schedule in picture format helps emergent readers to navigate their day.  Students can begin to anticipate the next part of the day.

    Once they learn the routine, many students want to help in sequencing through the pictures as the day progresses.

  2. Set Clear Expectations
    Students can understand what is expected of them if they have a visual reference of the classroom rules.
  3. Support Smooth Activity Transitions
    Transitions can be difficult for young students, especially for students with delays. If a student is having difficulty with a certain transition a picture cue can be a big help.A student not wanting to transition to pick up breakfast but enjoys drinking the juice he gets from the cafeteria, responds immediately upon seeing the picture of the juice.

    Once the picture prompt is presented it can greatly reduce the time it takes to transition.  Showing a student a picture of the therapist coming to work with him helps the student prepare to leave the group.

    Showing a visual to indicate a special event – a school bus for a field trip, a camera for picture day- will help students prepare for a change in their routine and can also help ease their anxiety.

  4. Reinforce Desired Behavior
    First/Then picture prompts can help students with transitions as well as reinforcing desired behaviors. If a student refuses to participate in a structured activity, a first/then board can be used to show the student that if they do the first task then they will be able to do the next activity.By seeing and following a visual representation of “first Circle Time”, “then playdough” a student is building their receptive language while also working on their independent functioning skills.

    Creating a visual support schedule will bring order, quiet, and structure.

    Creating a visual support schedule will bring order, quiet, and structure.
    Photo credit: iLoveABA.com

  5. Demonstrate Requests
    Students can build both their verbal and non-verbal expressive communication through the use of visual supports when making requests.The action of giving a card to get something in return is a powerful cause and effect skill builder.  Pictures of foods and favorite toys or objects is a great way to start using a picture exchange system.
  6. Simplify Decision-Making
    Presenting pictures when students are making choices simplifies information that the student is receiving. It is also a way to encourage expressive language from early learners.A choice board is often used when planning for Center Time activities.  It focuses the students’ attention and gives them the opportunity to work on beginning planning skills.
  7. Build Social Skills
    Visual supports are a powerful tool for building social skills. Problem solving prompts, turn taking cues, and social stories will assist students in building self-regulation/calming skills and feeling identification.

Often a picture prompt is better received than continual auditory only commands.  When presenting visuals to students be sure to give extra processing time. Processing time is important, especially in the beginning when it is new to the student.

Visuals will ultimately help to build a student’s autonomy as well as their expressive and receptive language skills.  Include simple auditory messages when presenting visuals to increase a student’s cognitive understanding.

 

References

Breitfelder, L. M. (2008). Quick and Easy Adaptations and Accommodations for Early Childhood Students. TEACHING Exceptional Children Plus4(5),

Moody, A. K. (2012). Family Connections: Visual Supports for Promoting Social Skills in Young Children–A Family Perspective. Childhood Education88(3), 191-194.

Simpson, L. A., & Oh, K. (2013). Using Circle Time Books to Increase Participation in the Morning Circle Routine. TEACHING Exceptional Children45(6), 30-36.

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