5 Jobs in Early Childhood Special Education

A career in special education can be both fulfilling and inspiring. Focusing on roles within early childhood special education can be particularly gratifying, as they provide an opportunity to play a pivotal part in a child’s growth and support at a critical time in their development. 

While working as a special education teacher may be the first option that comes to mind when envisioning jobs in this field, there is a range of professional paths both inside and outside the classroom.

Here are some options for professionals exploring opportunities in early childhood special education.

At-Home Teacher/Tutor 

Not all teaching takes place in a formal classroom setting. For some students, individual circumstances may make it necessary or preferable for them learn at home. Students being home-schooled may also need a trained teacher to augment instruction parents provide. This may appeal if you enjoy teaching but prefer interacting with students on an individual basis.

This role typically requires similar education and training to a classroom teacher, although additional home-schooling certification or other credentials may be required. Pay can vary widely depending on location and whether the teacher is employed through the public school district or a private company. 

The distinction between this role and tutoring is mostly a question of scope, breadth and time commitment.

Tutoring is a great option for special educational professionals who want a less rigid or supplementary work situation. Tutors often have considerable flexibility in deciding when and where they work. These professionals provide help to students who need extra support, generally in more specific concentrations than a teacher’s broader subject instruction. The median pay rate for a tutor is $17.66 according to, although rates can be higher for those with additional training or specializations.

Special Education Advocate

Those who find it fulfilling to champion a worthy cause may want to consider a career as a special education advocate. These professionals represent students and their families, ensuring the students receive educational services they need and to which they are entitled. Advocates often function as a liaison between the student/family and the school district and other organizations that provide special education support services. cites anaverage starting pay rate for educational advocates of $27.75 per hour (though that may be a very small number of reports); such numbers also depend heavily on location, qualifications and other factors.

Special Education Administrator 

Serving as a special education administrator or director might appeal to education professionals who prefer to work in a managerial or administrative role. These staff members are responsible for planning, implementing and overseeing special education programs. A position at this level can affect the education of many students, without actually working in a classroom. 

This type of position typically requires a master’s degree, certification as a supervisor of special education, and/or several years of experience as a special education teacher and/or school administrator. The average pay for a director of special education is $74,412 per year, according to

Learning Disabilities Teacher Consultant

Serving as a learning disabilities teacher consultant (LDT-C) involves assessing the needs of special education students and creating an educational plan to ensure their individual needs are met. This role can offer the satisfaction of knowing you are having a positive impact on a student’s educational growth, without requiring you to run a classroom every day. Only some school districts employ these professionals, and the positions typically require completion of a graduate-level program, such as the one offered at Monmouth University.

Special Needs Guidance Counselor

Special education counselors often serve the function of a typical guidance counselor, with additional focus on students receiving special education services. They may also perform some of the duties of other special education professionals, such as a teacher consultant. This professional role helps ensure the student’s needs are being met, and coordinates services and support resources they may need to fulfill their academic potential. According to, the salary range for special needs counselors is $25,000 to 44,000 annually, depending on experience.

Note: All salary information collected in June 2017. 

Researching these special education job alternatives can help broaden your horizons when considering a future in this field, or contemplating a transition out of the classroom. Learn more about alternative special education careers and get ready to look for the school that’s right for you.

Do Special Education Teachers Get Paid More?

The United States special education program serves about 7 million students. This means that there are a lot of special education teachers needed for this country to run. That number is increasing and has been for a while. The funding granted to special education programs has also been increasing in the last few years.

Special education is an expanding and rewarding career, but passion doesn’t pay the bills, right? If you want to know what the average salary is for a special education teacher, keep reading. There are several factors that play into this, so we’ll explain everything in the paragraphs below.

General Outlook

Unfortunately, special education teachers are in very short supply. Every state but one is suffering from shortages in special education teachers. The only state that did not report a shortage was Oklahoma. This report was from 2011-12. A similar report from 2017-18 states that only 46 states reported shortages for special education teachers, and that one of them was Oklahoma.

Between these two reports, we can draw two major conclusions. The first is that the teacher shortage has been here for several years already. The second is that, if the crisis is even slowing down at all, it is doing so very slowly.

We may also be spending too little on special education. Many would argue that special education has never been a high priority in many school districts. Many are especially worried given recent political developments.

Many are questioning the qualifications and intentions of Trump’s Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. She has said during interviews that she believes states should decide the rights of a special education student. While there is always a chance that states will rise to the occasion, many don’t believe this will be the case.

If there is any upside to all of this, it’s that special education teachers tend to get paid significantly more than general education teachers at the same grade level. This is true from preschool to high school.

Also, to help combat the teacher shortage, some states have instituted a debt forgiveness program. This program ignores student loan debt for students who study special education or another field where teachers are in high demand.


As a general rule, Connecticut and New York tend to be some of the highest-paying states in the country. The pay scale can be confusing because there’s no set rate. Most of it has to do with how much the state itself has and is willing to spend on education. Thus, teachers in poorer states tend to make less.

This is one of the reasons Oklahoma issued their debt forgiveness program. They didn’t have the money to raise the salaries of special education teachers.

The lowest-earning special education preschool teachers in New York will make about $60,000 per year. Compare this to Rhode Island, where the lowest-earning special education teachers will earn roughly $68,000 per year.

However, the top-earning special education preschool teachers in New York can earn nearly $89,000 per year, while the highest-earning special education preschool teachers in Rhode Island will only make about $76,000 per year.

Some states, such as Connecticut, have higher salaries across the spectrum. Others, such as New Mexico offer low salaries.

Grade Level

If this seems confusing already, it only gets more complex from here. Salary tends to fluctuate with grade level. For instance, a preschool special education teacher in Alaska will make at least $65,000 per year.

Meanwhile, an elementary school special education teacher in the same state will earn at least $75,000 per year. This drops down for middle school level teachers. It drops again at the high school level.

Washington drops about $1,000 from preschool to elementary school, and then another few hundred per year in middle school. However, a high school special education teacher in Washington makes at least $1000 more than preschool teachers.

Yet again, New York stands out. In New York, the payscale grows with the grade level, with the preschool teachers earning least and the high school teachers earning the most.

Area of Expertise

A common misconception about special education is that one special education teacher is enough to manage the whole classroom. The truth is that there may be a few teachers for a single classroom in a relatively small school.

With the population and our understanding of psychology advancing, it has become useful to specialize in a specific kind of psychological or developmental condition.

The current trend is to focus on Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD. For some reason doctors still can’t explain, there seem to be more confirmed cases of autism than ever before.

Most special education teachers tend to work with children whose disabilities are considered mild to moderate. This is considered less stressful than working with those whose disabilities are severe.

Special Education Teachers and the Perks of Being One

Being a special education teacher is a very rewarding career and a very important one at that. It gives you the opportunity to work with a great group of children and be there for people who unfortunately don’t have a lot of other people on their side.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the pay tends to be better than for most teachers.

If you want to know more about special education and its various ins and outs, please visit our site. We will tell you about some of the career options out there for someone with a special education degree. We will also help you learn about some of the best places to earn an online special education degree.

Top Paying States for Special Education Teachers

It’s a harrowing but unfortunately all too true reality: 49 states are currently facing a severe shortage of special education teachers.

If you’re considering getting into the field, you likely already know that this national shortage means you’ll be in high demand. Still, the reality is that becoming a special education teacher is as challenging as it is rewarding.

Schools are certainly aware of this — and they’re using salaries as a convincing incentive to encourage more people to get into the profession.

So, what are the top paying states for those entering into the field of special education?

Keep on reading this post to find out.

We’ll also let you know how you can set out on the right career path to become a special ed teacher — and begin making a difference in the lives of your students and their families.

If You’re Teaching at the Preschool Level

First of all, let’s take a look at the top paying states for special education teachers who plan to work at the preschool level.

As you’ve likely expected, working with children who are often too young to completely express themselves regardless of their learning differences can be a challenge.

You’ll need to be intuitive, able to think on your feet, resolve issues that come up between other students, and have lots of patience.

However, working with young children who have special needs is also an incredibly heartwarming and professionally rewarding experience. Many special education teachers get their start by teaching preschool children on a part-time or full-time basis, moving onto older children as their careers advance.

Still, in some states, the salaries are quite competitive.

If you work in Connecticut, you’ll earn an average yearly salary of around $72,000. However, in some places in the state, you can earn as much as nearly $94,000.

You should also consider working in Oregon. The average salary there is close to $74,400, while some teachers in special education can earn up to $90,000 teaching preschool-aged children.

Teaching Special Education at the Elementary Level

Now, let’s examine the potential salaries of special education teachers who work elementary school students.

In most cases, this means working with children who are in kindergarten all the way up to the fifth grade (though it may vary depending on the specific school.)

It’s important that you compare the cost of living in the state where you plan on teaching with the average salary. Remember that what might be tough to live on in one state could be a very competitive salary in another.

Interestingly, special ed teachers who work in Arkansas receive a wonderful salary of anywhere from $75,000-$92,000. Especially when the median income is around $40,000 in Arkansas, you’ll be more than comfortable on your special education salary.

Connecticut also tops the list. You can earn up to $97,000 annually, with the average salary of a special ed teacher at the elementary level resting at nearly $80,000.

The Top Paying States at the Middle School Level

So, what can you earn as a special education teacher at the middle school level?

Given that middle school is a notoriously challenging time for students of all abilities, it makes sense that you can expect some competitive salaries.

When it comes to the middle school level, New York offers the highest rates of pay. The average special education middle school teacher earns about $74,000 a year. In some cases, especially within the independent school system, they can earn over $96,000 as an annual salary.

California also offers some of the top salaries, with an average of close to $69,000 all the way up to $83,000.

Finally, Arkansas makes the list again, with the average salary hovering close to $75,000 and going all the way up to about $92,000.

Special Education Teachers at the High School Level

Finally, let’s examine what you can expect to make if you want to teach special education at the high school level.

The academic and, even more so, social demands of teaching high school special education courses are much more rigorous. However, you’ll also have the wonderful chance to get to know your students on a deep and fulfilling level.

You’re not just teaching them the core subjects. You’ll also be helping them to learn more about who they are as people — outside of just their differences and disabilities.

Teaching at the high school level will also offer you the highest pay rates as a special education professional.

Again, New York and Connecticut offer the highest average salaries.

In New York, you’ll earn an average of $76,000 per year — though you can fairly easily earn up to $100,500. In Connecticut, you’ll earn an average of about $77,000 when it comes to your salary. However, some special ed teachers have earned close to $93,000.

Additionally, Illinois offers competitive salaries. If you want to teach there, you’ll earn an average of about $63,000 per year. However, you could end up earning well over $83,000.

We Need More Special Education Teachers: Are You Ready to Become One?

We hope that this post has helped you to better understand the top paying states when it comes to working as a special education professional.

Are you ready to find the career of your dreams as a special education teacher? Would you like to learn more about how you find an online school where you can earn your Master’s in special education?

Need tips and tricks when it comes to classroom management, teacher burnout, learning sign language, and much more?

We’ve got you covered.

Let our website serve as your ultimate guide to every step of your career in special education.

Creating a Safe Environment for Youth with Special Health Needs

Approximately 6.7 million students in public schools have special health needs. These students require teachers who are aware of and prepared to address learning difficulties and unique personal challenges. Most children along the autism spectrum just need patience and a safe environment to learn.

Keeping all kids safe is a priority, but dealing with those with special needs requires a bit more preparation. If not, you’ll get burned out quickly having to constantly correct and redirect them away from trouble. Exploration doesn’t need to be stunted just because their behavior is a challenge.

Follow these steps to create a safe environment for all children with special needs.

Think Like a Child

This is probably easier for some than others but bear with us here. Take a survey of the spaces that the children will be learning in. Get down on your hands and knees if you’ll be teaching crawlers. Look at all the potential hazards that children could come into contact with.

Child-safe outlets, shakey tables, curtains, and appliances are all potential accidents for children with special health needs. Their judgment of tall objects or stability should be erred on the safe side.

Organize and Visualize

Defining boundaries can be a struggle for kids along the spectrum. Even if it may be difficult to teach them, you should try your best to advertise boundaries. You can do this by designated specific areas for playtime, naptime, snack time, and special activities.

Store your supplies in their own compartments at opposite ends of the room. Further identify these areas by using labels, colored zones, and audio cues. Children who cannot read yet will be able to associate these physical locations with specific times of accessing them.

Eliminate Escapes

Children with special needs will need equal amounts of structure and space. These spaces should exclude long hallways and isles that can present tripping hazards. Long narrow spaces just have too much potential for injury.

You should try to place roadblocks at the entrances of hallways. A small gate should be used for crawlers and older children alike. You can also fill hallways and isles with tables and furniture that discourage running.

Teach to the Senses

It’s worth elaborating that teaching kids with special needs has to be done outside the text. Even kids who aren’t diagnosed with special needs know the importance of mixed methods of teaching. Most of us need to learn with hands-on experiences, rather than reading out of a book.

That means lesson plans need to be creative, engaging, and not centered around doing “classwork”. Sometimes lessons need to be taught through song, dance, painting, or puzzle-solving. There should be multiple versions of these lessons to appeal to all types of special needs personalities.

Tactile Feedback

Touch is such a powerful sense for children born with special learning needs. They are more sensitive to touch and interactions with certain textures can generate various emotions. The act of squeezing and grabbing a stuffed animal, for example, is very calming and therapeutic.

You should utilize their favorite stuffed animals and toys as a method of associating learning with safety. Retaining the attention of special needs children is a delicate balance of tactile cues and positive reinforcement.

Choosing Toys and Supplies

Having the right combination of toys and learning supplies helps makes your job easier as a teacher. Overall, you should aim for a good variety of toys and supplies to keep the mind stimulated. Arts and crafts supplies are very important, as are blocks and puzzles.

Make sure all of your toys and supplies are tested among special needs children. There’s a lot of good resources that you can find written by parents who can make suggestions based on their experiences. This is very helpful when deciding on age-appropriate toys and supplies.

Most products are labeled with ages and learning levels that are often difficult to translate for special needs age groups. We recommend teaching children how to use new toys and supplies through demonstration, but with moderation.

Sometimes trying to do things the intended way only can be frustrating for children with special needs and generate anxiety.

Give Choices and Alternatives

Kids will know what’s best for them if you give them choices. Your lesson plans shouldn’t be rigid. Special needs children will feel trapped if they aren’t happy with their activities. This is where you’ll find the source of many tantrums and acting out of turn.

There needs to be a sense of freedom with every activity and the ability to switch to a different plan altogether if needed. Your space should also include a designated area for deescalating situations. It can be a small bedroom or any space that is quiet, filled with soft items, and dim lighting.

Never Lose Composure

Children can tell when you’re stressed, frustrated, or angry. Special needs children are especially sensitive to projected emotions. You need to always be positive and never let children adopt a negative attitude towards your environment.

As soon as they start to associate your space with negative experiences, you’ll need to do your best to diagnose why that is and fix it. We’re not saying you have to spoil them or ignore bad behavior. Children with special needs can learn consequences without needing to be directly punished, it just requires some creative engineering.

Careers Dealing with Special Health Needs

Yes, dealing with children that have special health needs is challenging, but it is equally rewarding. If you’re compassionate and love making a difference in others’ lives, there is a growing need for special education teachers. As we learn more about those with special needs, the way we teach them improves.

If you’re interested in learning more about the career paths available, take a look at these five special education jobs in demand right now. The benefits of this life-long career of helping others extend beyond what is written on paper. Find the job that you look forward to waking up to every day and never look back.

Helping Teachers Recharge

Energy Level: Low or High?

As a school administrator, I conduct interviews each year to fill holes in the ever-evolving faculty at our school. Each time I meet a teacher candidate, I ask them many difficult questions about teaching pedagogy, classroom management, and lesson planning, however what I am really looking for is passion and energy. Have you ever met a teacher that absolutely loves teaching and wants to make a difference in the world? Their energy is contagious! A school administrator is always hopeful that this energy will rub off on any teachers who may forgotten why they became teachers in the first place. According to Shawn Achor‘s book “The Happiness Advantage,” your attitude can have a huge impact on how successful you will be in your given profession. Hiring passionate teachers can give your faculty a shot in the arm, but how can we help teachers who may be succumbing to the stress of the job?


As students deal with an increasingly stressful environments at home and school, programs like mindful schools have found their way into many American schools. According to, students are bombarded with toxic stress in today’s schools, but what about teachers? I would argue that with the demands that are placed on teachers in today’s classrooms that they need this type of program as much as the students do. Teachers will be unable to maintain a healthy level of passion for teaching if they do not employ strategies to deal with the stress that comes with the job. Shawn Achor recommends at least 5 minutes of daily meditation to raise levels of happiness, lower your stress, and even improve your immune system function.

Faculty Room Safe Haven

The faculty room is an important place in every school. This is where teachers come to diffuse some of the tense situations that they have been dealing with during the day. Our school’s faculty room was clean and functional, however some adjectives that new teachers had used to describe it have been subpar to say the least; “dark,” “a cabin,” “a dungeon,” and “Napoleon Dynamite’s basement.” No matter how you cut it, we understood that we needed to make a change. As we updated furniture, color, and other design aspects, we contemplated the question, “What kind of faculty room will reinvigorate our staff to go back outside and do their jobs with passion?” Our faculty decided to get rid of some furniture to simplify and organize the room. Next, they put up inspirational messages for teachers to view about teaching. Shawn Achor calls this “infusing positivity into your surroundings.” Now we hope our faculty room will be described as “fresh,” “positive,” and “fun.”

Random Acts of Kindness

My dad used to tell me as a kid that if I appeared unhappy, that it was because I was to busy thinking about myself. His advice has stuck with me to this day. Whenever I feel stressed, overwhelmed, and generally unhappy, my first go-to activity is to complete some random act of kindness. It can be giving a friend or family member a kind note, paying for someone’s groceries, or even providing people you work with an unexpected treat. This same strategy can be implemented in school settings with teachers and if you can create a culture where teachers perform random acts of kindness with each other, then your school will definitely be on their way to creating an environment that help your staff recharge.

Maintaining the Advantage

Ensuring that teachers deal with stress effectively while working in a positive environment, will help teachers maintain the competitive advantage that happy workers enjoy. Stress will never go away, so it is imperative that teachers understand effective strategies to mitigate the negative effects of stress in their lives. If teachers can develop habits to utilize strategies like these, then their battery will be recharged, their smiles will always be genuine, and their passion for teaching students will always be there.

To read more articles like this, go to Special Education Career’s Blog.

5 Benefits of Earning Your Master’s in Special Education in 2019

Anyone who has worked with students with disabilities knows what a rewarding and enriching experience it can be.

And anyone who is the parent of a child with a disability knows how crucial it is for their teachers and care providers to be highly trained and committed to the important work they do.

Paraprofessionals or teacher’s aids helping in the classroom work one-on-one with students to make sure they’re getting their needs met. They keep the classroom running safely and smoothly.

Unfortunately, these type of careers are not always available, and can be difficult to support a family on these wages.

If this hits home for you, it might be time to take the next step in your career.

If you have been considering going back to school to work on your master’s degree, now is a better time than ever to take that exciting leap.

Keep reading to hear our top five reasons why working on your master’s degree in 2019 will be the best decision of your life.

1. The Opportunity to Make a Greater Impact

If you’re already working in the field of special education, chances are you’re committed to sticking with it.

The connections you form with your students and the fulfillment you get from your work can be impossible to find in other career fields. But you can only get so far with only a bachelor’s degree.

Studies have found that the advanced knowledge you get from a master’s program can provide you with the skills to have a more far-reaching and long-lasting impact on the communities you work in.

If you’re not already working in the field, that doesn’t mean you’re not a great candidate. Maybe you have a friend or family member with a disability, who has inspired you to want to pursue this type of work.

Maybe you’re simply drawn to it out of passion and curiosity to learn different methods of teaching. Perhaps you’d like to have the opportunity to work with students with diverse needs and backgrounds.

Whatever your motivation for wanting to pursue an advanced degree in the field, chances are that there’s a master’s program out there that is a great fit for you.

2. Versatility in Career Options

There are more than 6.7 million students with disabilities attending schools throughout the country. That means that there are a wide array of areas where people with advanced training are needed.

There is a career out there that is perfectly suited to your strengths and interests.

Earning your master’s degree is the first stepping stone down the path of being able to find the most fulfilling work possible.

There are so many opportunities available, some of which include:

ABA Specialist

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) is the leading therapy for students with autism. Advanced knowledge of the science behind this method is essential. The training you’ll receive from your degree is crucial to being able to create the best learning plans possible.

Educational Diagnostician

The first step to being able to provide the best education for students is being able to perform the right tests to assess their disability. A career in special education testing lets you work with a wide range of students who are just starting out on their journey.

Special Education Teacher

Whether you’re interested in working in a public or private school, with elementary school children or young adults, there is a wide range of special education teaching opportunities out there.

Special Education Specialist

For some students, the services provided in the classroom are not enough to meet their needs, and additional support might be necessary. Specialists have skills in specialized areas, such as sign language, to be able to meet the needs of every student.

This is only a quick glimpse of the possible options for an exciting career in special education.

3. Personal Growth and Fulfillment

In our disconnected and challenging world, it can often feel like we are alone in the universe. But providing support to students with disabilities can make you feel fulfilled in a way that you may not find elsewhere.

The knowledge you’ll get from a master’s program will give you great possibilities for personal growth and enrichment.

Education conferences, talks, trainings, seminars, podcasts, and other professional development opportunities will be available to you throughout the span your career.

Special education is a field where you never have to stop learning, growing, and expanding your horizons.

4. Revolutionizing the Classroom

We are truly living in the digital age.

Now more than ever, technological advances are redefining how children interact with learning materials in the classroom. And this is especially applicable in special education.

Communication devices are becoming more advanced. They allow nonverbal students to communicate their needs and ideas in ways they weren’t able to in the past.

Tablets provide engaging opportunities for growth and development.

Technology grows exponentially, so it’s impossible to predict what the classroom will look like in 5 or 10 years!

A career in special education allows you to be on the cutting edge of this exciting era. You’ll get to implement the latest tech advances to give your students the best learning experience possible.

5. Your Salary Will Be Worth the Investment

There’s no question that having a master’s degree allows you to earn a more competitive salary. According to the US Census Bureau, people with master’s degrees earn an average of 30% more than those with a bachelor’s.

And that percentage is even higher for people working in the special education field.

On average, people with a master’s degree working in special education make between $60,000 and $65,000. That can be as much as double what a paraprofessional or teacher’s aid is earning.

So the investment that you make in your education will most definitely pay off in the long run.

The Sky is the Limit With a Master’s Degree in Special Education

If you are ready to start impacting your community in a meaningful way then it’s time to start looking into what master’s program is right for you.

We are here to support you in taking this exciting and possibly intimidating step.

So please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions you might have along the way.

And don’t forget to check out our blog to stay on top of the latest news and information about the rewarding field of special education.

6 Influencers Working in Special Education

6 Influencers Working in Special EducationSuccessful 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

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.” 

Rob Gorski

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.” 

Katrina Keene

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.

Michelle Rhee

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.

What is the difference between a IEP and 504?

13% of all students enrolled in school receive special education services.

Educators remain flexible to manage their classrooms and reach students. After all, everyone learns differently. But, individuals with either a 504 plan or an IEP (Individual Education Plan) need a specialized approach.

As future and current educators, we all want to make sure we meet the needs of our students. Since more than 1 in every 10 students needs special education being knowledgeable will be an asset.

We are responsible to attend parent-teacher conferences, grade papers, and manage a classroom. But, we are also responsible to meet guidelines for 504 Plans and IEPs.

Knowing about these plans in advance helps you as an educator to feel more prepared. You will feel more confident in teaching students with specific educational needs.

Both 504 plans and IEPs protect students with disabilities. Each aims to meet the needs of a student but differ in their approach, services, and goals.

So, what’s the difference? Read on to learn more.

The Difference Between IEPs and 504 Plans

1. The Degree of Services Needed

Students with an IEP need special/individualized education based on an evaluation. Students with a 504 Plan need accommodations within general curriculum classes.

A student with an IEP needs a higher degree of special education services. This includes placement in special education classes or modifications/accommodations in the general education classroom.

Students with a 504 Plan typically need certain accommodations within the general class setting. These students need fewer accommodations than students with an IEP. This includes accommodations such as needing more time to complete assignments.

2. Applicable Laws and Rights

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) enables students with disabilities to IEPs. This federal law entitles students with disabilities to free and appropriate education. Enforcement of this law is from the ages of 3 to 21 years old.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 also guarantees that students with a disability receive free and appropriate public education. If a student meets the requirements to receive an IEP, then an IEP outweighs the 504 Plan. If a student only qualifies for a 504 Plan then the IDEA does not apply.

Each of these laws provides services to the student at no cost. Both laws require school districts to follow the requirements outlined. Schools must follow each plan to avoid discrimination.

3. Qualifications

504 Plans include a broad spectrum of physical and mental impairments as qualifications. These impairments interfere with learning or a major life activity such as reading. Examples of impairments include mental illness, loss of motor capabilities, or specific learning disabilities.

These impairments create classroom accommodations for the student. Accommodations include a test read out loud, extra bathroom breaks, or assistive technology.

To qualify for an IEP, a student must meet one or more conditions outlined in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Conditions include specific learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorder, or emotional or physical impairments.

The child’s outlined condition must also interfere with educational performance. Their condition and interference in the general classroom benefit them to receive a specialized education.

Special education is sometimes separated from the general education curriculum, but not always. Special education can mean being in classrooms with modified curriculums and instruction. These modifications exist on a continuum based on the needs of the students and their level of academic ability.

Sometimes students with an IEP are able to be in the general education classroom setting. Supervision on the part of the teacher or a paraprofessional may be necessary.

A paraprofessional is an individual who is trained to meet the specific needs of a child with a disability. A paraprofessional assists the students with tasks outlined in the IEP.

Some students are assigned an individual paraprofessional. In other cases, a paraprofessional assists all students and the special education teacher in the classroom.

4. Type of Documentation

By law, IEPs must be documented in writing. 504 plans are not required to be in writing. Schools generally do document 504 plans in writing to maintain clear communication.

An IEP includes the present academic status of the student, accommodations, and modifications. It also outlines educational goals, duration of service, and a participation plan. Lastly, the IEP shows how the child will take part in standardized testing.

A 504 Plan outlines specific accommodations the child needs. The accommodations are based on the student’s impairment.

Each time an IEP plan changes it must be in writing. 504 Plan also can change but it does not need to be in writing. Some schools do make these changes in writing for a 504 Plan to maintain clear communication.

Any significant changes to an IEP must be presented to the parent before the changes take place. These changes need to be in writing prior.

Significant changes to a 504 Plan must also be told to the parent. It is not a required for changes to be documented in writing.

5. Support System

Children with IEPs and 504 Plans have a support team which ensures that the plans are carried out. The IEP support team is more in-depth than the 504 support team.

The support team for an IEP includes the child’s parent, a district representative, and a specialist who interprets evaluation results. Additionally, at least one general education teacher and a special education teacher. All the members of the support team must be present at IEP meetings minus some exceptions.

The support team for a 504 Plan includes an educator (general or special education teacher), the child’s parent, and the school principal. The educator on the 504 support team understands the students, their needs, and accommodations needed.

IEPs and 504 Plans in the School Setting

For those seeking a career in special education, IEPs and 504 Plans will be discussed in your education courses. Just like each student with an IEP or 504 Plan has a support team, so will you!

Seasoned teachers and administrative staff can help support you in understanding the laws and guidelines necessary to provide all students with access to public education.

To learn more about careers in special education and to see if this may be the right career for you visit our blog.

If you do decide that a career in education is for you, then visit our website to find an online or special education program that meets your specific needs and career goals!

What are the different types of Special Education?

Over 6.7 million students are currently receiving some form of special education.

If you’re thinking of teaching children with a learning disability or other special needs, then it’s important to understand just how broad the category of “special education” actually is.

In this post, we’ll quickly introduce you to the thirteen types of special education. This way, you can decide which areas you’d like to focus on as you continue on the path toward becoming a special education professional.

1. Deaf-blindness

This refers to a student that has difficulties when it comes to both hearing and seeing what’s being said and shown to them.

They may not be completely deaf or blind, but the combination of the two of these issues makes it harder for them to learn at the rate of their peers.

In some cases, they have struggled so much that a school dedicated specifically to only the deaf or only the blind did not have the resources to help them.

2. Hearing Impairment

A student with a hearing impairment may not be completely deaf, but they are hard of hearing. In some cases, they may be deaf in one ear or deal with a hearing loss that changes and progresses with time.

In short, it’s any loss or change in hearing that isn’t defined as deafness.

3. Deafness

A deaf child has many specific needs in the classroom.

You may need to learn ASL, understand how to operate a hearing aid system, and find other ways to communicate with deaf students.

4. Specific Learning Disability

A child with a specific learning disability, or SLD, has been diagnosed with a processing or learning issue.

They may have a single learning disability, or they may have more than one. This can make it hard for the child to read, communicate, write, understand math, and more.

Specific Learning Disabilities can include an auditory processing disorder, Dyslexia, a nonverbal learning disability, or Dysgraphia.

5. Autism

There are over 3.5 million Americans currently living on the Autism spectrum.

Autism means that a child may have difficulty expressing or controlling their emotions, have trouble with communication, and even struggle to make friends.

They may also make repetitive movements, fixate on ideas, and become extremely sensitive to their sensory surroundings (like light or sound.)

6. Other Health Impairment

This is a bit of an “umbrella term” when it comes to the types of special education available to learners today.

This can refer to conditions and illnesses that impact a child’s strength, ability to focus or stay awake, and more.

For example, ADHD falls under the category of “Other Health Impairment.

7. Visual Impairment/Blindness

There are nearly 63,000 students who are either blind or dealing with another more severe visual impairment.

Be aware that a child who wears glasses will not fall under the category of Visual Impairment.

A student may require special accommodations, need help learning braille, or even need a guide around their school.

8. Speech or Language Impairment

This is another blanket term in the world of special education. This means that a child has issues with speaking or communication.

They may not speak the language of instruction, they may stutter, and they may have some sort of a voice impairment that prevents them from speaking.

9. Emotional Disturbance

A student with an emotional disturbance deals with moderate to severe mental health issues.

In some cases, they have been diagnosed with a more severe mood disorder, like Bipolar Disorder or even Borderline Personality Disorder. They may also have schizophrenia, extreme anxiety, or even obsessive-compulsive disorder.

They may become angry, mean, or violent, or they may withdraw and isolate themselves to the extreme.

10. Traumatic Brain Injury

This type of special education refers to a student that has suffered from a brain injury that has impacted their physical and/or emotional/learning development.

Usually, this happened because of an accident. In some cases, however, the brain injury could have been sustained because of abuse.

11. Intellectual Disability

This refers to children that don’t simply have a learning disability but have an intellectual ability that is well below average for their age range.

For example, the student may have Down Syndrome.

In some cases, this lower intellectual level can make it hard for the student to take care of themselves. It could also impact their overall social life, and make it tough for them to communicate their needs and feelings.

12. Multiple Disabilities

In some cases, children will have more than one of the disabilities on this list.

This means that parents may need to look into more specialized programs to ensure that their students get the education support they need.

13. Orthopedic Impairment

Students with an orthopedic impairment deal with situations that make it difficult for them to move as easily as children without some sort of disability can.

They may be in a wheelchair, be missing a limb, need a walker, or have a limp or another issue that makes it harder for them to move. In some cases, they may be unable to write or fully turn their heads to read.

The 13 Types of Special Education: Wrapping Up

We hope that this brief overview of the 13 types of special education has helped you to narrow down your specifications when it comes to what you want to concentrate on.

Remember that special education, though challenging, is one of the most rewarding professions to get into.

If you’re ready to jump start your career, let us help you learn how to make a difference in the lives of your future students.

Master’s Degree in Education: Why I Chose It

Master's Degree in Education: Why I Chose ItLiving in Florida for three years, I had recently heard of the teacher shortage in the state and wondered if a Master’s Degree in Education could be a possible next step for my career.  I was also recently and unexpectedly reunited with a college friend who had just made a change in her career to education.

So, in 2005 I decided to make a career change.  I decided to follow a path I considered following when I was eighteen.  It was a path I initially turned away from but now felt drawn towards. I decided to become a teacher. 

I spent the last few months of 2005 and the spring of 2006 taking certification exams, ESE K-12, Pre-K through 3rd grade, along with the general knowledge exam and applied for a temporary teaching certificate.  I also made the decision during that time to quit my decent paying job to take a teacher assistant job. 

I was excited and scared to make such a drastic change.  Frankly, I wasn’t sure if I had the skills to be an effective teacher.  I felt if I could begin working with students and teachers in some capacity, I would have a better idea if this was a good choice for me.

I taught my first class in 2006, Pre-K EELP (now Pre-K VE).  I also spent the next few years completing an Alternative Certification Program (ACP) before applying for my professional teacher’s certificate.  Those first few years were challenging but gratifying at the same time.  I was fortunate that I was surrounded by wonderful mentors and colleagues who were generous with advice and resources.  Teachers are some of the hardest working, smartest, generous and caring people I know.

Since starting teaching, I set the goal of going back to school for a Master’s Degree in Education.  After finally completing the ACP program, I told myself I’d take a break.  Teaching is fulfilling but it also is exhausting and a one year break turned into seven simply because I was hesitating.  

I loved many aspects of being a teacher.  Being able to have a positive influence on a child’s life was, for me, the best part of the career.  But at the same time, I was hesitant because the demands placed on teachers can be overwhelming.  I wasn’t sure if I could juggle the demands of teaching and college classes at the same time.  And I wasn’t sure if I wanted to take on the expense of college when I was struggling to get by. 

In order to continue in education, I wanted to become a better teacher.  To do that, for me, meant to earn a Master’s Degree in exceptional education.  I made the choice to finally work to fulfill the goal I set when I started as a teacher.   I would continue to work towards being the best teacher I could be for my students.  This past August, I enrolled in University of Central Florida’s Master’s Degree in Education program that includes a Pre-K Disabilities Certificate.  Twenty four years after earning my bachelor’s degree, I am so nervous and so excited to say that I am back in school.