3 Valuable Pieces of Special Education Career Advice

At any stage in your career, everyone can benefit from a solid piece of career advice. In the field of special education careers, these three individuals have excelled in their respective paths. Psychiatrist and ADHD specialist Dr. Ned Hallowell, classroom teacher and behavioral therapist Tim Villegas and speech pathologist Carrie Clarke all offer their wisdom regularly. Even if you’re not looking to build your career in their specific specialty, special education professionals should take their valuable advice to heart.

1. Dr. Ned Hallowell

Dr. Ned Hallowell, a New York Times bestselling author of more than 20 books, advises special ed professionals to “look for a mentor — a person in your field but not necessarily at your workplace — who can guide your career and point out trouble spots before they become barriers to advancement.” In all careers and lifestyles, he says: “What is most important is to work with what we have and recognize and accept ourselves for who we are. No amount of money or prestige can make us happy without self-acceptance. Love who you are and it will be easier to love what you do.”

2. Tim Villegas

Special education teacher Tim Villegas draws on his nearly 15 years in the field to advise those seeking jobs in special education on his blog. “Find a support system,” he says. “It is so important to be in contact with people who feel the same way about education as you do. For me, it was finding like-minded bloggers who were talking about the same issues in the same way. Second, you need to stop being afraid of change.” He encourages special ed professionals to ask: “Have you stopped growing as an educator? Have you stopped learning new things? Have you lost interest in refining your craft? Even if it means taking a class or joining a professional learning network, you may have to do something to change your situation.”

3. Carrie Clark

Carrie Clark, speech-language pathologist and blogger, encourages those pursuing special education careers to find ways to magnify their impact while avoiding burnout. She encourages educators to consciously collect their own success stories. “Before you leave your office each day, pull out a sticky note or a scrap of paper and write down one win that one of your students had. You don’t have to write their name. Just write down something awesome that happened for one of your kids in speech. The simple act of writing down these wins will help to keep you in a grateful and positive mindset. Plus, when you’re having a rough day, you can always look back through your jar to show you how much of a difference you really are making in these children’s lives.”

These strategies and mindsets helped these three experts excel in their work. While pursuing jobs in special education, use their tips to carve out your own path to success and more effectively help the children you work with – now and in the future.

Meet more special education professionals in our blog.

3 Things Parents Need to Know About Personalized Learning

Personalized Learning: A Message to Parents

When you first hear the term Personalized Learning, it can seem like a no-brainer to parents. What parent wouldn’t want their child to have their education tailored to their strengths, weaknesses, and personal interests. It sounds like a dream come true. However, parents need to understand that there are a couple of things about Personalized Learning that are important to address.

1. Personalization Can’t Occur Without Technology
Personalized Learning and Blended Learning are not synonymous, however Personalized Learning cannot occur without Blended Learning. Blended Learning occurs when a student learns partially online, within a brick and mortar building, and along an individualized learning pathway ( This cannot take place without the use of technology. Technology is what gives educators the ability to personalize learning for each child and provide the real-time data that is required to truly know what each child knows. Some parents have concerns about technology use and their children. Parents need to know that students who are learning in a personalized learning environment will need to use technology.

2. Your Child Needs to Learn to Work Independently
In the old days, a teacher was much like an orchestra conductor. The students all played the same piece of music and the teacher orchestrated the classroom in a smooth manner so that there was harmony. Except there was one problem, not every child could play the song in the right way and at the right speed. Personalized Learning looks to flip this instructional style so that students are moving at their own pace and learning only what they need to. This can mean that some students may end up working by themselves for a period of time. Parents need to be okay with this. Personalized Learning is not all about independent study, but it is about individualizing the instruction that each child is getting. Within Personalized Learning, students may have opportunities to work in groups, however the likelihood that students participate in activities as an entire class seems more and more less likely. Because students may be working independently for longer periods of time than in the past, students need to develop additional skills such as project management skills, the ability to plan and set personal and academic goals, and the ability to stay on task. All of these skills will be beneficial for students to develop as they prepare to enter the workforce.

3. Teachers Will Make Mistakes
Personalized Learning is a relatively a new teaching pedagogy. Many teachers are still learning about it and undergoing professional development to help them implement it into their classrooms. Obviously, mistakes are bound to happen during the implementation of Personalized Learning until a teacher becomes confident and experienced enough so that these “hiccups” do not happen. Parents need to have realistic expectations while at the same time providing patience to teachers as they try to determine how to best personalize the learning for their students. Parents should be encouraged to learn alongside teachers and be actively involved in providing feedback to teachers on the type of learning environment that they want for their child. Parents should also be encouraged to be flexible as the school environment changes from the one that they experienced as a child.

Personalization Has Individual Student Needs at Heart

As more and more schools shift to an environment that focuses on Personalized Learning, mistakes will be made, questions will be asked, and new ideas will be tried. It will be messy. It will me different. But the one thing the teachers and parents can agree on, is that both stakeholders are trying to do their best to help provide the personalized learning environment that students deserve. If teachers and parents work together, then no matter how many mistakes are made, student needs will remain at the heart of the individualized education that they are trying to receive.

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Bullying Prevention for Children with Special Health Care Needs

It’s reported that 1 out of every 5 kids under the age of 18 years old will experience bullying. That ratio is more grave for the 54 million people in the United States managing disabilities.

What does that mean for you?

It means that if you’re the teacher, parent, or advocate of children with special health care needs who you suspect may be dealing with physical and emotional abuse at school, you’re not alone.

To help add clarity to your bullying suspicions, our team lays out steps below on how you can identify the presence of bullying. We also describe how you can remedy the issue in special needs populations so you can break the cycle.


The first step to preventing bullying in the life of children with special health care needs is to do your best to identify the presence of it. There are a few strategies you can leverage to do this.

Talk To The Child You Suspect is Being Victimized

Whether it’s your student or child, the first step to uncovering the presence of bullying is to ask about it. Do this in a casual way so the conversation doesn’t create a situation that might make communication difficult.

For example, talk about what bullying is with the child in question and ask them if they’ve ever experienced anything like it. If they have, talk to the child’s educator, parent or one-on-one aide to see if another adult can corroborate or add clarity to the situation.

Watch for a Sudden Decrease in Academic Performance

Unfortunately, identifying bullying in children with special health care needs isn’t always as easy as asking. You may have to look for signs to find out if there’s an issue.

One of the most common signs of bullying is a decreased academic performance with no explanation. Managing bullying can be a distracting experience which can leave little time for studying and learning.

If you notice that grades have suddenly taken a turn for the worst with the child in question, talk to their teachers. Talk to their aides. Talk to their parents. See if anyone can offer an explanation.

If nobody can, bullying could be the cause.


Depression is a common side effect of bullying and can manifest itself in a variety of ways. If children with special needs exhibit behaviors like a sudden loss of interest in things they used to enjoy, lack of appetite or frequent naps, ask about bullying.

Low Self Esteem

Another sign of bullying in children with special health care needs is a sudden drop in self-esteem. If the person in question is suddenly talking bad about themselves or is using insults you can’t identify the origin of, you should be concerned.

Talk to the child and ask why they’re saying the things they’re saying. Ask them about where they heard the negative phrases they’re using.

Physical Harm

One of the most tell-tale signs of bullying-related abuse if physical harm. If you notice signs of physical violence in a child you’re looking out for, immediately inquire as to the origin of any marks that you notice.

It’s also important that you talk to the other adults in the child’s life (parents, teachers, aides) to see if anyone can shed light on the situation. If you’re the educator of the child in question, you may be required by law to make a legal report with the help of your supervisor.


If you’ve noticed one or multiple signs of bullying in a child that you’re responsible for, the next step is to rectify the situation. When the presence of bullying in a child’s life gets confirmed, it can be an emotionally charged experience for teachers and parents.

It’s important to stay level-headed in these situations to not further escalate the issue.

Below are some steps to take to prevent further bullying in children with special needs.

Talk to a Healthcare Provider

If any physical or emotional abuse has gotten caused by bullying it’s important that you get the child in question to a healthcare worker. Health care workers will not only provide any necessary medical treatment for physical harm but they can also direct you on what psychological help may be advisable for the child.

Help Reinforce Social Skills

Many times children with special needs get targeted for bullying because of their lacking social skills. These skills can be instilled, at least in part, through being proactive as a teacher or parent and by seeking out professional psychological help.

Skills to focus on would be positive assertive strategies when dealing with negative people and assistance with basic skills required to make friends.

Notify the School

If you’re the parent of a bullied special needs child, you and your healthcare provider should notify the child’s school as soon as emotional or physical abuse on campus is suspected. The school should then mobilize appropriate disciplinary and preventative measures to ensure the child being abused has a safe learning environment.

Monitor Progress

Bullying prevention in children with special needs is something that needs to be continuously monitored. Monitoring needs to take place in the way of asking the bullied child to be honest if they’re experiencing further abuse and in the way of keeping school officials proactive in managing the prevention of further on-campus incidents.

Extend Your Education

There’s a virtually unlimited amount you can learn about bullying and resources available to prevent it in special needs populations. Always make the time to extend your education so you and the child you teach or parent never feels confused or alone.

Great places to start extending your education are on or on

Wrapping Up Bullying Prevention for Children With Special Health Care Needs

Whether you’re an educator, a parent or a guardian of children with special health care needs, being able to leverage strategies to prevent bullying in vulnerable populations is an important skill you should always be looking to improve.

Are you looking to take your career in special education further? Are you looking to get started in a special education career?

You can find a school on and do both. Get started on your learning journey today!

7 Jobs a Master’s in Special Education Will Get You

For a quick look into the possibilities, check out this list of jobs you can get with a Master’s in special education.

What You Can Do With a Master’s in Special Education

Trying to figure out where you can go next with your career? Check out these possibilities.

Classroom Special Education Teacher

The most obvious job you can get with a special education degree is a position as a special education teacher. For most people who major in special education, this is their end goal.

As a special ed teacher, there are plenty of different ways you can fulfill your role. You may spend most of your time in your own special education classroom. You’ll have the opportunity to work with kids with any number of developmental or physical disabilities.

In some cases, you may serve as a resource teacher. In this case, you could offer a hand to students with disabilities in average classrooms. Some students can function in a regular classroom in certain subjects but need a touch of extra help.

It’s important to realize, though, that special education teachers have a high rate of burnout. They leave their profession at twice the rate of other educators. In case you struggle with burnout, it’s comforting to know that there are so many other jobs you can get with your degree.

Educational Diagnostician

Before kids can get their Individualized Education Plan (or IEP) and get into a special education class, the school needs a diagnosis.

With your Master’s in special education, you’ll have the skills you need to make those diagnoses.

In some cases, you may perform formulated tests to assess a student’s abilities. Other times you might conduct therapy-like discussion sessions and use your observations to determine a diagnosis.

You may be able to work for a school, a therapy practice, or another organization in this capacity.

Special Education Advocate

For parents whose child has a disability, the world of special education can be overwhelming. In many cases, they have to fight year after year to get their child the accommodations they need.

As a special education advocate, you’ll help these families in this endeavor. You’ll be able to work with schools to provide the placements and accommodations that fit your clients’ needs.

You can also counsel families about their kids’ rights regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act and other laws. As kids grow into adults, you can advocate for them in other stages of life as well.

Special Ed Career Counselor

Most of the jobs we’ve discussed relate to kids with disabilities. These students don’t stop needing services when they turn 18, though.

As a special education career counselor, you can help students with disabilities to take the next steps after they graduate. Some may be well suited to college and specialized careers.

For other students, an entry-level job like working at a retail store might be a better fit. You can help teenagers and adults find fulfilling jobs while helping them through the transition to adulthood.

Teacher Educator

Perhaps you enjoy learning about disabilities but you’re not a fan of teaching young kids. In this case, you could be well-suited for a career as an education professor.

With a job at a college or university, you can educate the next generation of teachers. You’ll be able to teach students who are majoring in special education as well as general education students who need to know how to teach kids with disabilities too.

Some professionals use this as a secondary job as well. You might teach special education or have another full-time job during the day while serving as an adjunct professor in the evenings.

Group Home Advisor

Some people find that as much as they enjoy working with people with disabilities, they don’t like being in educational settings. Rest assured that there are plenty of other places where you can put your skills to work.

One great option is to work at a group home. These facilities are designed for adults with disabilities who need help caring for themselves. They’re similar to assisted living facilities, but their residents tend to be younger.

As a part of the staff, you may be able to help design programs the residents will enjoy. You can also help to train other staff members who don’t have as much experience working with people with disabilities.

Advisor at Non-Profit Organization

As we discussed above, there are many unique challenges for people with disabilities. Fortunately, there are non-profit organizations who are here to help.

At these organizations, you can help to advocate for the rights that people with disabilities deserve. You might do this on an individual level or on a larger scale with legislative changes.

In other cases, these organizations help families secure funding for the therapies they need. It’s shocking how rare it is for health insurance to cover most services for people with disabilities. You can help with fundraising efforts and grants to give people the funding they need to improve their lives.

Setting Up Your Career with a Master’s in Special Education

Kids and adults with disabilities can be an absolute joy to work with. There is a special light they carry, and those who have the privilege to work with them are an honored few.

A Master’s in special education will set you up to work with these people in a variety of settings and capacities. You could stick to the education realm or you may prefer to branch out. Either way, your degree will give a strong earning potential and plenty of options.

For more help with your special education career, check out our special education resources.

Celebrating Developmental Disabilities

From 2014 to 2016, there has been a spike in developmental disabilities among kids ages 3 to 17 from 5.76 percent to 6.99 percent. Which is why it’s never been so important to ensure that positive attitudes and behaviors are waiting for these children when they attend school.

Unfortunately, negative attitudes do arise in the educational system for children with developmental disabilities, whether it’s in the classroom or the cafeteria.

Understanding the “why” is the first step towards fixing this and creating a healthy learning environment for all children. Here we will be discussing where negative attitudes and behaviors toward children with disabilities stem from, how to intervene, and what proactive measures can be taken as a community.

Attitudes Towards Children with Developmental Disabilities

There have been a number of studies diving into the negative attitudes behind the perception of children with developmental disabilities. Unfortunately, this research has been aimed more towards the general public and not specifically geared towards teacher or counselors.

However, recent studies have shown us that both students and teachers share in a negative attitude towards children with disabilities. It was found in one 2004 study that while the majority held a neutral attitude towards children with disabilities over 20% had a negative attitude with females being slightly more negative than males.

Behaviors Towards Children with Disabilities

While it may seem natural that these attitudes would bleed over into the behaviors towards children, studies found that the majority of those with negative attitudes maintained indifferent behavior. However, in cases where negative behavior from teachers or counselors was expressed, there was a much higher rate of bias and discrimination.

It was also found that teachers with negative attitudes towards children with disabilities admitted to expecting low achievement from the students along with inappropriate behavior. In turn, this leads to more negative behavior from teachers.

Understanding the Source

It’s important to know where this negative attitude stems from if we are looking to repair it and give all students an equal chance with equal support. The source of these attitudes come from several areas. The first is cultural. Culturally children with disabilities are not well represented within the media, creating skewed stereotypes for our culture as a whole.

Second, and perhaps the most important reason, is that throughout the course of their training teachers and counselors only have a small fraction of their lessons geared towards children with disabilities. This creates a feeling of being unprepared among school staff.

Outcomes for Children

It would be naive to believe that negative attitudes and behaviors toward children with disabilities hold no negative outcomes for the students. Often, students will internalize these negative attitude and carry them over, causing them to affect the remainder of their education, their employment possibilities, social relationships, and even their physical health.

Since children tend to live up to the expectations of those around them, teachers expecting negative actions or inappropriate behaviors from the students will often receive just that, blaming the student for the results and not their own negative attitudes.

How to Intervene

The good news is, we can change this. As an advocate for students with disabilities, it’s vital that intervention is used whenever negative behavior or attitudes are represented. This doesn’t mean intervening only on a situational basis, but when it comes to events, materials, or experiences that portray a bias against children with disabilities.

This can be utilized by volunteering for school-based activities and lessons or creating a panel within the school personally dedicated to the treatment and behavior towards children with disabilities.

Training School Personnel to be Mindful

The majority of teachers truly want what’s best for all of their students, however, they simply seem unprepared or unsuited for the job in cases of children with disabilities. We can avoid these issues by insisting on changes being made to counselor and teacher training that is adapted towards the emotion, mental, and health needs of children with disabilities.

This can also be implemented on a smaller scale with mandatory conferences and meetings that directly teaches staff the best way to engage with children with disabilities.

Intervening with Students

It’s important that these changes are also mirrored with the students that attend the school. The students are the peers and the community for children with disabilities, and the behavior they receive from this group will either be a great benefit or detriment.

For this reason, it’s important to create an inclusive space for all children, teach students how to hold positive behavior towards their peers and work to overcome false stereotypes they may see in the media.

Embracing Disabilities on a School Wide Level

By choosing to educate those who educate our children, we can create a more dedicated and understand culture throughout the school. This means everyone from counselors to coaches understands the importance of creating a loving, accepting, and inclusive behavior for all students.

There can also be additional efforts in screening for negative attitudes towards children with disabilities during the original hiring process, to help maintain a supportive and cooperative community within the school.

Resources for Children with Disabilities

There are a number of resources available for those looking to reframe the behavior towards children with disabilities in their school. Teachers and counselors can increase their knowledge of special education through an online course, videos, or ebooks.

There are a number of Universities that even offer Masters programs for special education, to help equip teachers with the necessary skills and attitudes. The more that can be absorbed and applied by school staff the better the environment for all of our students.

Celebrating Children with Developmental Disabilities

It’s important to remember that we have just as much to learn from children with developmental disabilities as they do from us.

As parents, teachers, and allies it’s our job to create a safe and supportive space for children to receive the education and guidance they deserve. This begins with a strong educational core for our staff and extends out to teaching proper behaviors and attitudes for every student.

Developmental Disabilities Month

It’s not always easy being, advocating for or working with people with disabilities. Even with all the attention special education and individual needs are getting on a national level.

Part of the battle for people with disabilities is getting people to see them, not just their challenges. We see that through people classifying people with disabilities as “the handicapped”, “the disabled”, and even worse terms.

The problem with those classifications is that they put the disability before the person. Vocabulary aside, the community is working on addressing public awareness.

They do this through Developmental Disabilities Month. The month of March has themes that the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities creates each year to bring people with disabilities to the forefront.

Learn how this tradition got started, what a typical month is like, and what last year’s theme held below.

The History of Developmental Disabilities Month

Though it’s hard to have a disability now, it was even harder forty or fifty years ago. Back then, instead of treating people with disabilities like humans, they threw them into institutions. These institutions were like jails and many people were abused both emotionally and physically.

It wasn’t until the 1970’s when we saw a decrease in institutions that society took notice. It was President Ronald Reagan who declared March Developmental Disabilities Month.

With this, people began to learn more about people with disabilities and professionals started to do more research. A large number of advocacy groups were formed in the following years and still exist today.

But what is the point of Developmental Disabilities Month (DDM)? According to Regan himself, it’s to “increase the public awareness of the needs and potential of Americans with Developmental Disabilities”.

And while the themes change every year, the purpose hasn’t changed since. As people become more and more aware, we’re moving away from the visibility part of the equation. Instead, we focus on how to show that people with disabilities deserve inclusion and equal treatment.

A Typical DDM

Each time March comes around, the people at NACDD have spent months and weeks getting ready for the event. They need to figure out a theme, four sub-themes, and activities that go along with each.

A potential theme could be something about helping people see the similarities between someone with and without disabilities. We’ll go into last years theme in detail later.

The theme would have a name, potentially “Inclusion and Innovation” or something like that. Within that theme, the people who plan the month create sub-themes. There are four, one for each week of the month.

Sub-themes are a way to divide something as big as inclusion into easier-to-chew pieces. The purpose is to start conversations, go through activities, and bring attention to a way that people with disabilities are being underserved.

With the development of social media, we’re seeing more people engage with DDM than ever. Each year there are hashtags and prompts for posts that feature the theme.

Though, yes, there are some nasty comments sometimes, the majority of social media posts stay positive. Many people use this as a chance to engage friends and family members that are unaware of daily struggles.

Schools and centers that work with developmentally disabled students often have special events. It’s a time for the community of people with developmental disabilities to rally together. There’s power in numbers and the community shows that every year.

DDM 2018: See Me for Me

In 2018, the national council decided on the theme of “See me for me”. The purpose of this theme was to help those without disabilities see through someone’s challenges.

Like anyone else, people with disabilities want to be seen as the person they are, not as their disability. And the monthly sub-themes of the month went with that.

2018 Sub Themes

The sub-themes divided the months into physical places. Where do we see people with disabilities and how can we do a better job to treat them like everyone else in that part of our lives?

Week 1

For example, week one was “see me as your classmate”. This week focused on education and the ways people with disabilities show up in schools. Yes, they have different ways of learning and different needs, but there are more similarities than you’d think.

Some schools and classrooms focused on engaging with the general school population. Others used this week to advocate for more funding and resources for special education departments.

For those who don’t know the in’s and out’s of special education, teachers showed how they create individual learning plans to help their whole classroom.

What are successes like for each student? For the class in general? The creativity of special education teachers should not go overlooked.

They spend their days creating fun and engaging activities that teach people with disabilities. One person may need that activity in an audio format, while another may need to learn more hands on.

Check out this calendar of suggested activities from last year’s theme for examples.

Week 2

Week two was about seeing people with disabilities as people in the community. How can the general public make the community more welcoming and inclusive for those with disabilities?

How can we do a better job including people with disabilities in public places without focusing on their specific challenges?

Weeks 3 and 4

Week three focused on people with disabilities in the workplace. There are a huge number of unemployed people with disabilities because most employers aren’t willing to personalize the job to fit someone’s needs.

Even now, with legislation in place to stop discrimination, we still see a large unemployment problem.

Finally, week four focused on people with disabilities as our neighbors and our friends at home.

Developmental Disabilities Month 2019

As of this writing, we don’t yet know the theme for 2019. We do know that the national council will put a lot of work into planning it and that we look forward to seeing the results.

If you want help integrating activities from a developmental disabilities month calendar in your community, click here to find resources.

Inclusion vs. Self-Contained Education

In 2014, 2.4 million American public school students were diagnosed with a learning disability, according to the U.S. Department of Education. This number accounts for five percent of our nation’s public school population. Many of these students also have a secondary disability.

Special education teachers work tirelessly addressing these students’ needs. There is no “one size fits all” solution. From teaching methods, to support techniques, to classroom models-special education is a nuanced field.

Evaluation Process and IEP Designation

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), each student with a disability is entitled to a “free and appropriate public education” in the “least restrictive environment.” In other words, these students have the right to receive necessary adaptations.

In order for a student to receive special education services, he or she must qualify for an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Special education teachers, parents, school administrators, general education teachers and counselors all play an important role in the IEP process.

Special Education Classroom Models

The type of special education classroom model to which each school adheres impacts the implementation of these individualized plans. The two primary models are inclusion classrooms and self-contained classrooms.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 95 percent of students with disabilities are served in regular schools and 61.2 percent of those students spend 80 percent or more of their time in a general education classroom. Neither inclusion nor self-contained classrooms perfectly address the needs of special education students. Both models have noteworthy benefits and drawbacks.

Inclusion Classroom

In schools that rely on the inclusion classroom model, students with special needs attend class with their general population peers. In a full inclusion classroom, services are brought to the students. Some inclusion schools use a less absolute model called partial inclusion. Under partial inclusion, students spend a portion of their day in a resource room, working with a special education teacher.

Potential Inclusion Classroom Benefits:

  • Strong peer-to-peer interaction, development of meaningful friendships and increased diversity
  • Special needs students are given greater access to the school’s general curriculum, as special education and general education teachers work in tandem
  • Higher expectations may be placed on special needs students
  • Students are not labeled in a way that could decrease their self worth

Potential Inclusion Classroom Drawbacks:

  • In full inclusion classrooms, general education teachers may receive little input from special education teachers
  • The class’ overall academic achievement testing scores may be affected
  • General education and special education students may be deprived of important individualized attention and assistance
  • It may be difficult for a teacher to adequately address the needs of a classroom comprised entirely of special needs learners
  • Special needs students may only encounter their general education peers at lunchtime and recess
  • Social interaction difficulties could become exacerbated
  • There may not be a path available to return a student to a general education classroom

Blanket inclusion classroom policies are not appropriate for severely disabled students

Self-Contained Classroom

Self-contained special education classrooms are typically smaller in size and are led by a teacher with special education certification. Students in self-contained classrooms also receive special support and intervention in adherence with the terms of their IEP.

Potential Self-Contained Classroom Benefits:

  • Some students require more intensive intervention than can be offered in an inclusion classroom
  • Small class sizes foster individualized attention
  • Self-contained classroom special education teachers are uniquely able to account for individualized learning styles
  • Students form close relationships with one teacher

Potential Self-Contained Classroom Drawbacks

  • It may be difficult for a teacher to adequately address the needs of a classroom comprised entirely of special needs learners
  • Special needs students may only encounter their general education peers at lunchtime and recess
  • Social interaction difficulties could become exacerbated
  • There may not be a path available to return a student to a general education classroom

Do you believe one classroom model is superior? Do you find benefit in a hybrid approach? This topic will be one of the many you will explore in greater depth as you embark on your special education career.

2019’s Best Online Special Education Programs For Advancing Your Teaching Career

The United States desperately needs special education teachers and we’re not being dramatic. Out of fifty states, forty-nine of them report not having enough teachers to fit their needs.

In schools that do have special education professionals, eighty percent of them need more help. Creating a different lesson plan for each student isn’t easy and we need more hands on the ground.

But you know that. You’re willing to help solve this issue, and you’re looking into online special education programs. First of all, thank you and second of all, we’re here to help.

We want to do our part in solving the shortage and educating those who are willing to take on the special education challenge. You’re up for a highly-rewarding career with long days filled with warm fuzzies.

Ready to get started? Check out our guide to the best programs below.

Online Special Education Programs: The Criteria

When you search for a program, there are a few things you need to look for. The first and most important one is accreditation.

Imagine that you went through the years of education and work, just to find out your degree isn’t recognized by the state. That would be devastating.

Making sure you do your research before you apply will keep that from happening.

Second, figure out if you want to start a special education program that’s general or very specific. Many people don’t know what specification or specialization they want to pursue until they finish their general education courses.

If you don’t know what part of special education you’re most interested in yet, don’t worry. That’s completely normal.

Choosing Your (Special) Education Path

There are a few different kinds of masters degrees you can get in special education. They differ from school to school.

For Example, you could get a:

  • Masters of Art in Special Education
  • Masters of Science in Special Education
  • Masters in Special Education with an Autism Concentration
  • Masters in Special Education Licensure
  • Masters in Special Education Leadership and Training

The degree you choose depends on your dream workspace and what you want to do when you graduate. If you’re looking to run your own classroom, then a general Master of Special Education is the right degree.

But if you’d like to work in a more specialized setting, or be a helping professional, like an art therapist, pursue the Master of Art. You know yourself best and you should direct your studies towards where your strengths lie.

Finally, what kind of students do you want to work with? As we get more familiar with autism disorders, we’re seeing more autism focus tracks.

But you can also focus on early childhood education for those with disabilities, or preparing people for society.

Jobs You Can Get with a Degree in Special Education

The first job everyone thinks of is a special education teacher. As we already discussed, we desperately need those in America and all over the world.

There aren’t nearly enough teachers for these students who need extra help.

But teaching isn’t the only thing you can do with a masters or bachelors degree in Special Education. Learn more about teaching and other careers below.

Special Education Teacher

If you do choose to go down the common track and become a Special Education teacher, great! We really need you. The job description of a special ed teacher involves helping make a different learning plan for each student.

In some cases, these are called IEP’s or Individual education plans. They’re a collaborative effort between a school psychologist, the teacher and the child’s parents.

They detail the child’s difficulties and the agreed upon strategies to address them.

As a trained teacher you’ll have the choice between working in the public and private sector. If you live in an area with large populations, you may be able to work in a residential or even medical setting.

The salary isn’t much more than a regular teacher, though one could argue that special education teachers do much more.

The average salary is around $58,000 a year.

Language or Speech Pathologist

You’ll have to pursue some extra training than just bachelors if you’d like to be a pathologist, but the special education degree is a good start.

Pathologists specialize in identifying and fixing speech issues and language patterns. They’ll work with a full range of students or clients, including those without learning or developmental disabilities.

They do make more than a special education teacher, but it takes more training to be one. They can expect to make around $76,000 a year starting out.

As a pathologist, you can work in a range of settings. Schools, hospitals, and even rehabilitation clinics. A lot of pathologists find their work immediately rewarding, as you can automatically hear the difference in a child’s voice.

Early Intervention Specialist

If you like working with young children but don’t have the long-term patience of teaching, you can become an early intervention specialist. You’ll still interact with and help children with disabilities, but you’ll work with a wider range than a teacher in one classroom.

As it sounds, early intervention specialists are the people who help identify learning and developmental disorders right as they start. Or before they start, if steps can be taken to prevent it.

Most intervention specialists work on a team at a specialized tutoring center or hospital, though larger schools or school boards may employ their own.

How to Choose Online Special Education Programs

With an idea of the available degree programs and jobs, they lead to, hopefully, you can approach the idea of Special Education programs with more confidence.

You don’t have to know exactly what you want to do and specialize in before you start a program. You can begin many online Special Education programs on a general track and get more specific as you figure things out.

Want to learn more? We’ve done the research and laid out information on the schools we trust. Find our picks here.

3 Reasons Why Schools Should Adopt Restorative Justice Practices

Restorative Justice, What’s That?

Restorative Justice is a topic that continues to gain national attention as both elementary and secondary schools decide how to best deal with student behavioral and discipline issues that occur in today’s schools. The topic focuses on a mindset that aims to help students make restorations to address misconduct instead of resorting to punishing them. It also focuses on teaching and supporting students instead of pushing them away. Interestingly enough, restorative justice is not a mindset supported by all education stakeholders. In fact, some teachers who feel that restorative justice avoids providing discipline to students, remain opposed to this new movement.

Addressing the Problem

School administrators start their days with ambitions of visiting classrooms, completing paperwork, conducting meetings, and communicating with stakeholders. However the stark reality is that many school administrators are bombarded with school discipline issues before they even make it through the office door. They are then often forced to spend time making judgements about whether a student should be suspended or not. This can sometimes be a lengthy process, especially if a school administrator spends 30 minutes on an average office discipline referral. To complicate this process, they may learn that the offending student may currently be exposed to abuse, shows signs of depression, and has had to deal with lack of food or even homelessness earlier in the year. While the student is waiting for the school administrator to determine their fate, they are missing out on key instruction that they so desperately need and the school administrator is kept from accomplishing their own tasks. All of these issues combined paint a picture about school discipline that is not exactly black and white —- which is exactly why Restorative Justice is a better minds

#1. Restorative Justice Improves School Culture

Not only does Restorative Justice address the root of problematic behavior in schools but it also can improve a school’s culture. The opposite of a Restorative Justice program would be one that focuses on “zero tolerance.” A zero tolerance environment focuses on strict rules and even stricter punishments. When school environments are focused on these things, school discipline is largely ineffective. Relationships between students and school staff are often damaged and listening to one another is deemphasized. Because student motivation is a real concern by many educators in today’s schools, making sure that relationships are in good repair between staff and students becomes an essential indicator for school leaders to be concerned about. Students can feel whether their school environment and culture is supportive or not and that’s important because a student’s attitude about their school can impact their academic performance. This is exactly why the method of school-wide discipline must be taken seriously by education stakeholders.

#2. Restorative Justice Builds Healthy Relationships

Restorative Justice builds healthy relationships through a staple practice of conducting community focused circles where students can discuss personal struggles as well as issues that have occurred at school that need attention. This “talk-it-out” strategy focuses on helping students express their feelings and their emotions in a healthy way—something that should always be emphasized by teachers, counselors, and school administrators. School staff can guide these conversations by asking questions and helping students process negative events. It is here where students discover ways to solve problems in a healthy way and take responsibility for their actions. These skills will improve student-to-student relationships as well as student-to-teacher relationships which will ultimately positively impact student achievement.

#3. Restorative Justice Develops Understanding

Restorative justice helps school staff members to focus on understanding students first, which goes a long ways in building trust with the student body. As students develop these listening skills and strengthen their emotional intelligence, they are improving their future employability and the likelihood that they can successfully navigate a career and be a productive member of society. All students have extremely varied experiences at home, in their neighborhood, and at school. Their behavior in these environments is shaped by these experiences. When school staff focuses on gaining insight into each student by listening to their experiences, then stronger relationships are formed and the school staff can focus on addressing the root of the problem—not the negative behavior that ends up manifesting itself at school.

Conclusion: Restorative Justice Gets it Right

Although critics of Restorative Justice make claims that students avoid accountability for their actions in this type of environment, more students are kept in the right environment when Restorative Justice practices are utilized. Restorative Justice does not mean that students who break school rules and compromise the safety of others will not be disciplined, but it does mean that school discipline will not be viewed as a solution to the misbehavior. An educator’s job is not to avoid the problems that students come to school with, but to help fix them. Restorative Justice’s emphasis on teaching students to effectively deal with their problems by improving their listening skills and writing their wrongs continues to build within students a healthy set of skills that will aid them in school and in the future.

See how Restorative Justice also approaches Social Practice, here.

Building a Positive School Culture

What Makes a Good School?

When acquaintances find out that I am an elementary school principal, they invariably ask me about other schools in their own neighborhood and if I would recommend them. My answer to their question is always the same: a school is as good as its culture and the people that work within it. Well, what makes good school culture? Is it when the school principal knows every child’s name? Is it when the lunch room serves their famous peanut butter bars every Friday? Or is it a combination of things that help your school be great? Regardless of what you think makes a good school, here are some great ideas for educators to help improve the culture at your own school.

1. Share Your Story

The old adage,”No news is good news” does not apply to schools. If schools aren’t entirely focused on communicating to the community about the good things that are going on at the school, then the community will assume that nothing good is happening at the school. Schools can communicate their story through social media or some other parent communication platform like Class Dojo. The important thing to remember is to highlight events, school staff, and of course the students! As schools share their story, schools will build a positive culture that will impact everyone. From taking a picture of a student and a teacher who received a special recognition award, to writing a few sentences about the fall festival carnival that the school had the prior week—all “good news” should be shared to build positive school culture.

2. Show School Spirit

Another way to build school culture is to put an emphasis on showing school spirit at your school. Do you incentivize students to wear school colors? Does your school have a mascot that a student can dress up in? Does your school have a school song and do the students know the words? Does your school feature a central piece of artwork like a mosaic or mural that depicts your school motto or something that appeals to children? Does your school have kid-friendly decorations in the halls or does it look like a really old museum? The more a school appeals to its student body and instills a sense of pride about where they go to get their education, then the more a school will build on a strong tradition of success and strengthen school culture.

3. Make it Personal

The last way to build a strong school culture to allow teachers and students the ability to personalize their school to make it home. When was the last time you asked the faculty if they wanted to renovate or update the faculty lounge? Are students allowed to give input on the classroom and which flexible seating options might be available? Are students allowed to provide input on what types of pictures and games are put on the blacktop for students to participate in at recess? When students and teachers spend as much time as they do at school, we owe it to them to provide a place that makes them feel appreciated. At our school we renovated our teachers lounge. We got rid of the horrible and ugly furniture that was dark and looked like your grandma’s basement. Now it is bright colors with blankets and snacks. Teachers were allowed to provide input on the new teachers lounge and it strengthened the positive school culture at our school. When you allow teachers and students to personalize their school environment, then the school turns into “our school.”

Good Culture Takes Time

Positive school culture can be built in a myriad of different ways, but the most important thing that anyone can remember is that building a good culture takes time. Take a walk around your school and see how personalized it is. Go outside at recess to see if students are wearing school colors.I. Ask a random student if they know your school song by heart. If your school is in need of a culture makeover, then be patient and start the culture change today. Your school’s future students will thank you for it!

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