What You Need to Know About Teaching Special Ed in Florida

If you’re considering a career in special education, the timing couldn’t be better.

A recent U.S. News & World Report article laments the teacher-shortage crisis looming across the country and the particularly severe scarcity in special education. In fact, according to a study from the Learning Policy Institute, most states – including Florida – identified special education as a shortage area in their reports to the U.S. Department of Education in 2015-16.

As Florida grapples with this serious situation, college graduates who specialize in or seek advanced special education degrees will be snapped up by local school districts to fill vacancies.

Ready to position yourself as the perfect candidate? Here’s what you need to know about teaching special education in Florida.

Teachers’ Starting Point

To teach in Florida, you must at a minimum hold a bachelor’s degree, commonly in education or special education. (Each state sets its own requirements for earning a professional teaching certificate.) In the Sunshine State you can choose to major in special education (or similar majors), or you can opt for a bachelor’s degree that includes 30 semester hours in specific areas of exceptional student education – often called ESE for short.

Head to the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) website for general information about the state’s public education system. Then check out theBureau of Exceptional Education and Student Services, which administers programs and coordinates services for Florida students with disabilities.

Next Stop: Florida Requirements

In addition to requiring a bachelor’s degree, Florida mandates certification for all educators (including classroom teachers, school administrators and other support professionals) who teach in public schools, and it is required in many private schools as well.

Florida offers two types of educator licensing. The three-year, non-renewable Temporary Certificate is geared for new teachers who haven’t yet met all the FLDOE academic and testing requirements. The five-year, renewable Professional Certificate is for educators who have already met all FLDOE’s criteria. There are multiple paths to earning a Florida Professional Certificate – including interstate reciprocity if you have teaching credentials from another state – so you might want to review your educator preparation options in this FLDOE chart.

The FLDOE outlines a four-step process to earning your first Florida teaching certificate:

1. Apply

Complete an initial application package and submit it to FLDOE’s Bureau of Educator Certification. The package will include a CG-10 Application Form and the appropriate processing fee. If you’ve never held a Florida Educator’s Certificate or your Florida Educator’s Certificate has been expired for more than one year, the application fee is $75 per subject. (Check the FLDOE certificate application fee schedule for additional information.) Your application must also include official college transcripts listing all degrees and credits you’ve earned and, if applicable, copies of teaching certificate(s) you hold from any other U.S. states or territories.

2. Determine Eligibility

The Bureau of Educator Certification evaluates your application package, determines your eligibility for a Florida certificate and mails you the results, known as an Official Statement of Status of Eligibility. Valid for three years, this statement serves two functions. It officially says whether you’re eligible for a Temporary Certificate or a Professional Certificate in the subject area you requested, and it provides you with a customized list of the requirements you must complete to receive full state certification in Florida.

3. Seek Employment

With 67 public school districts, Florida offers a wide range of teaching possibilities in elementary and secondary schools. For traditional public schools, each district employs teachers eligible for certification. For Florida’s 650+ charter public schools, the relevant district may help with certification for teachers. Florida also offers instructional options through its online public schools – Florida Virtual Schools – and through several non-public schools. For a one-stop job-hunting portal visit Teach in Florida.

4. Submit Fingerprints

For employment and certification purposes, the school district requires fingerprints from employees at Florida’s traditional and charter public schools.

In addition to this certification process, FLDOE requires four endorsement areas for teachers of students with specific disabilities including severe/profound disabilities, orientation and mobility disabilities, pre-kindergarten disabilities and autism-spectrum disorders.

If you already know you are interested in teaching in this state, and as you decide to pursue a master’s degree in special education, check with your university’s education department to confirm your graduate program complies with the most current FLDOE regulations and licensing requirements.

These 8 Top Special Education Jobs Are Hiring Now

These 8 Top Special Education Jobs Are Hiring NowWhether you want to work in a classroom or not, there are lots of ways to get involved in the field of special education. A range of different positions are available both inside the classroom and out, and not all of them require a Master’s in special education degree. Depending on your interests and skills, your desired work environment, salary and lifestyle, there are many ways to have a fulfilling career working with children with special needs. 

Assistive Technology Specialists

Technology can change a special ed student’s life. Assistive technology specialists work closely with students to prescribe and provide technology that can ease their classroom challenges and bring them academic success. The position may require certification (one example is the Hearing Impaired N-12 Certification in Pennsylvania, which is part of the online Master’s degree program offered by Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.) The median salary for specialists is around $48,000.

Katrina Keene is an example of a specialist who moved on later in her career to research and integration of new assistive technologies.

Journalist

Some education journalists report on news of developments in the special ed field, and others, such as Kate Leonard, specialize in covering medical advancements. Some choose to pursue a journalism or special education degree, though it is not generally required. The median salary for a journalist or reporter with a master’s degree or MBA ranges from $37,138 to $42,560. 

Principal

School leaders often start their careers as classroom teachers, like Eric Sheninger. By leading the direction of a school and supporting special education teachers, they can profoundly impact the education of students with special needs. A master’s degree is typically required, and principals can earnbetween $88,607 and $112,842, depending on the school district. 

College/University Faculty in Special Ed

Postsecondary teachers are responsible for educating future instructors toward special education degrees. Those like Dr. Matthew Lynch also research and design curricula and resources for teachers to use in the classroom. For an assistant professor, which is typically an untenured position in the U.S., the median salary is $58,861, with a range between $49,603 to $77,828. For associate professors, more often a tenured position, the median salary is $88,935, and can range between $71,626 to $122,045. 

PreK–12 Teacher

Classroom teachers, including general subject teachers and those who focus on children’s special needs, all have an impact on children with physical and psychological disabilities. They help students achieve academic success by adapting state curriculum to their various abilities. Teachers can obtain a certificate or Master’s degree to practice, and earn around $57,000 per year. Some teachers, like Kelly Gallagher, choose additional consulting or writing positions to advise other teachers working with special needs students.

ADHD Coach

Coaches of students with special needs work with them one-on-one to achieve success. After earning a specialized license, child counselors can earn$76,040, on average, yearly. Laurie Dupar and Casey Dixon are two examples of influential special education professionals who’ve incorporated ADHD coaching and counseling into their careers.

Behavioral Therapist

Behavioral therapists work with children who have a range of disabilities and help them adjust to school and life. They are required to obtain a Master’s degree (such as the online program offered by St. Mary’s University in Minnesota) and state license, and generally earn around $32,000. Some, like Tim Villegas, begin careers as behavioral therapists and then continue on to teaching careers.

Occupational Therapist 

Occupational therapists help students with special needs navigate barriers caused by their disabilities to function as capably as possible in school. After earning a master’s degree, occupational therapists earn a median salary of $82,833 — most between $75,875 and $90,229. Some like Dr. Frederick B. Covington work in a range of areas including school-based intervention, autism, developmental disabilities, physical disability and dysfunction, and technology.

These are just some of the options available to those considering special education jobs. They each have their specialties, and there is considerable overlap in how and where these individuals work with children. But for all, it takes teamwork to succeed.

Note: Salary figures as of April 2017.

Learn more about special education careers both inside and beyond the classroom.

The Special Education Teacher Shortage

Being a teacher isn’t easy. Being a special education is even more difficult, but it’s also the most rewarding profession.

The country is in the middle of a special education teacher shortage. These children need people like you who understand they’re more than their diagnosis.

There are many reasons why there is a special ed teacher shortage. We’ll explain it and why now is the perfect time to join this profession and make a difference in a child’s life.

Special education teachers have the opportunity to watch students blossom and grow. You can help them reach their fullest potential.

There’s Planning and Paperwork

There’s a lot of paperwork in teaching. Special education teachers have a lot more than standard teachers. Also, they must develop individual education plans for each student.

The state and the federal government have requirements that you must meet.

The paperwork has dissuaded many teachers from becoming special education teachers. What do people get out of that paperwork? You get special insights into your students that many teachers never get.

IEPs help students overcome their challenges and reach their fullest potential. Most teachers have a general plan. Many students that may slip through the cracks.

Special education teachers get to know each child and watch them grow from year to year thanks to the paperwork.

You can see as their scores grow or their socialization improves. Many people see the increased paperwork as a negative. In reality, it’s a portal that shows you the children in a way most people don’t see.

It Takes A Special Person

A big reason why there is a special education teacher shortage is it’s not for everyone. You’re working with children that have a wide range of disabilities from minor to extreme physical or mental issues.

If you like helping people, then it might be for you. There will be days when you want to tear your hair out, but there will days when you can’t stop smiling.

Imagine watching a child complete a math problem on their own. It took weeks, but you found a way that finally clicked for them. You did that.

What about when a parent pulls you aside one day and tells you how much their child has changed. They’re holding back tears because the student read a book to them for the first time.

A regular teacher can make a difference to one or two students in a class. A special education makes a difference to each one.

A Teacher Shortage is an Opportunity

If you can teach special education, then you can have your pick of school districts. There’s a shortage in almost every state. Is there an area of the country you’ve always wanted to live in, or did you want to move closer to your family?

Odds are there is a district that needs a special education teacher of your caliber. They might be in dire need and provide a higher wage or other benefits like education loan reimbursement or help pay for your graduate degree.

Special education teachers are a rare breed. You deserve everything they get from a school district.

Take a chance and you could be sitting in a position you’ve always wanted. It’s a buyers’ market, so reach out.

Lots of Work, Lots of Rewards

Special education teachers work many hours, as do most teachers. The children have physical and mental disabilities that need to be accommodated.

This has helped create the special education teacher shortage. They don’t understand the rewards all the extra work provides.

First, special education aides help with work in the classroom. You’re in charge of the classroom and you tell them who and how to help.

You can help one group while classroom helpers work with others. You’re not alone.

You’re helping children develop into their best selves. You not only teach them with an IEP, but with socialization, life skills, and more. The smiles on their faces when they achieve is beautiful.

There’s no better feeling than knowing you’re helping them become better people.

All the work that matters is difficult. If you want an easy job that’s about a paycheck, then find something else. If you want a job that runs the roller coaster of emotions but makes a real difference to people, then sign on the dotted line.

Develop Your Own Program

With a shortage of qualified teachers, school districts are desperate to fill the much-needed positions. This gives you the opportunity to build a program from the ground up. Most teachers are pigeonholed into a specific curriculum and structure.

They have little control and flexibility thanks to government mandates and testing. Special education has rules and structure, but you can develop in whatever way you need. Each child is different, so you can’t have something structured.

If you want to do some groundbreaking work, then districts may give you leeway to pursue it. While all the other teachers are stuck with boring curriculums, you’re pushing boundaries and creating new programs.

What you pioneer in your classroom may become standard procedure in the future for teachers all over the country. The teacher shortage provides you with unique opportunities that other teachers don’t get.

Start Early to Take Advantage of Shortage

If you’re in high school or college, then there are programs designed to bring people into the special education fold. Residency and mentorship programs give you experience that employers will want. If you’re a special education aide, then the district may help with college tuition if you want to become a teacher.

It’s not only current teachers that can take advantage of the shortage. It’s anyone with an interest in helping children with special needs.

Find Your Perfect Teaching Job Today

You can make a difference in a child’s life and develop a career that you’ll love with special education. Don’t let what seem like roadblocks stop you from taking advantage of a teacher shortage. There has never been a better time to be a special education teacher.

If you want to learn more about special education opportunities, then explore our website today.

Understanding CEC’s High-Leverage Practices and Practice-Based Teacher Education

Special education practices have undergone dramatic changes over the past two decades. As our knowledge of children with special needs grows, our methods must change to meet educational goals.

In the fall of 2014, the Council for Exceptional Children approved a set of high-leverage practices for special education teachers. These new guidelines assist educators in getting the most out of the children they teach.

What are these practices? Read on to find out more.

What Are High-Leverage Practices?

There are four areas for special education teachers to focus on. Inside of these four areas, there are 22 practices to aid in the development of exceptional children.

Collaboration

To meet the needs of special education students, teachers need the expertise of a wide range of professionals. The practices in this area help teachers determine how to communicate with those who can help the student’s development.

Teachers should work together with special needs educators, support staff, and behavioral therapists. Teamwork helps students reach measurable goals and build the confidence they need to go out into the world.

Effective collaboration means that each person comes up with ideas. The team listens to and questions these ideas, plans out their implementation and shares results.

Educators need to work with family members to identify what special needs each child has. They also need to have a concrete understanding of the family’s goals and the progress family members see towards reaching them.

Teachers then meet with professionals to go over these goals. They look at the needs of the child to work out an effective plan that produces results. These professionals also determine if they have students that need special accommodations. In these cases, it’s important to work with decision makers to get the needed resources.

Assessment

Every child has their strengths and weaknesses. The job of a special needs educator is to recognize both, shore up areas that need improvement, and use the child’s strengths to their advantage.

There are two types of assessments that aid in this process. The first is formal assessments. These are the statewide and national level exams that test a child’s academic progress.

There are also informal assessments that teachers use. These include analyzing the teacher’s methods and making corrections where needed.

To put together a student profile, educators use different sources. Special education teachers use information from other professionals, the student’s family, and experts.

The student profile makes it easier to identify a child’s strengths and weaknesses. The teacher must take language, culture, and poverty into account when developing a student’s profile.

From there, the teacher interprets this information for stakeholders (family members, the educational institution, etc.). Educators develop an action plan using this data and give regular updates to the stakeholders the child’s progress.

It’s important to analyze the profile and methods used to reach the goals laid out during the process. Teachers should keep and reuse effective methods and get rid of ones that do not work.

Social/Environmental/Behavior

Student success depends on having a safe and respectful learning environment. Teaching students social skills is an important part of the educational experience.

Teachers aren’t only responsible for the students in their care during classroom hours. The job of a special ed teacher includes giving students the tools they need to perform outside of the classroom.

To do this, superstar teachers give personalized specific feedback. They use evidence-based practices and a team-based approach. Most importantly, they provide students with the stability of a positive teacher-student relationship.

A practice-based teacher provides age and culturally appropriate expectations. These expectations become reinforced through routines, reinforcement, and procedures practiced year-round. Providing positive and constructive feedback is one of the most powerful ways a teacher can reinforce good behavior.

Special ed teachers that follow high-leverage practices also teach communication skills and self-care. They prepare their students for life and build upon the child’s present strengths. They then check the success of their program and determine what works and what doesn’t. Remember, teachers must continue to evolve their methods over time.

Instruction

Instruction that works towards a goal is the most effective form of learning for students with special needs. Special education students need to know their long-term plan is and have a roadmap to success. This helps them understand how their education benefits them and reinforces positive growth.

Establishing individualized goals for students allows teachers to provide feedback and measure success. Teachers then guide students towards these goals through the selection of materials and tasks for each student.

Using technology and recognizing the required foundational needs of students is a must. A student’s roadmap should include a list of pre-requisites that help them proceed towards their next goal.

Through the use of cognitive and metacognitive strategies, teachers support memory and attention. Students learn how to track their own success and provide feedback to teachers on what works best for them.

Teachers, in return, use powerful tools to support this growth. They use methods until the student reaches the desired outcome and then remove those methods when they aren’t needed. The methods of instruction change based on the student’s needs.

Advance Your Career

Are you interested in advancing your career as a special education teacher? If you can follow these high-leverage practices and have a desire to help others, we can assist you in reaching your goals.

Check out our website for job postings and industry news to keep you up to date on the latest teacher education resources.

Special Education Roles Beyond the Classroom

Teaching is a profession that is both rewarding and challenging – particularly true for special education teachers. Working with students who need additional support can be satisfying yet emotionally draining, which likely contributes to the high turnover rate. Some sources estimate a 75 percent turnover rate for special ed teachers every 10 years, with 50 percent leaving their jobs within five years. Fortunately there are a variety of ways for people with special education experience and training to make a difference outside the classroom. 

Here are some special education jobs that don’t involve teaching:

Learning Disabilities Teacher Consultant (LDT-C)

Key elements:

  • Assess/diagnose students with learning difficulties, assist in the development of IEPs (individualized educational programs) and plan or implement instructional programs.
  • Support special education students by identifying their specific needs and ensuring they are met.

Prerequisites:

Requires completion of a graduate-level program, usually 24 to 33 credits – in addition to a master’s degree and often several years of teaching experience. (Note: This role is not found in every school district; research opportunities in your specific area.)

Special Education Advocate

Key elements: 

  • Advocates represent students (and their families) and speak on their behalf in the educational setting.
  • Plan, implement and monitor an educational plan for the student — serving as the student’s voice if any problems or concerns arise.

Prerequisites:

No specific training or certification is required by law but it is a good idea to pursue additional training with a specific focus on advocacy and special education regulations. The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates has a variety of helpful resources and training opportunities.

Educational Consultant

Key elements:

  • Share your expertise or experiences related to a specific educational topic or challenge.
  • Package your services in the format you prefer. Options include seminars, workshops or as-needed support.
  • As a self-employed consultant, you decide when and where you want to work.

Prerequisites: 

No additional credentials are required beyond a special education teaching background. 

Tutoring

Key elements:

  • Work as a self-employed freelancer scouting your own clients or sign up as a contractor providing services through a company such as Sylvan or Tutor.com.
  • Flexible schedule: You decide when and where you want to work.

Prerequisites:

Teaching experience and credentials are usually all you need — but some companies/clients will pay higher rates for tutors with special training or advanced education.

School Administration

Key elements:

  • A good option for those who are comfortable staying in the traditional school setting but don’t want to teach students directly.
  • Job titles range from special education administration to more general education roles such as vice principal.

Prerequisites: 

A master’s degree – including degree programs offered online – is a good start. You may then need to bolster your degree with specific administration-related training or certifications, depending on the position.

Fundraising Specialist

Key elements:

  • Lead fundraising efforts at organizations that assist children or education-related causes.
  • Good fit for those with persuasion skills or those motivated to use their winning personalities toward a positive goal.

Prerequisites:

Skills and experience are usually more important than educational degrees but training specifically related to fundraising is a valuable asset. Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis offers certification programs in areas such as Fund Raising Management as well as customized training options.

Publishing 

Key elements:

  • A big departure from an educational environment, this is an attractive option for those with specific expertise who are eager for a major change.
  • Various career paths including writing training guides for teachers, developing curriculum materials and training educators (high potential for business travel).

Prerequisites:

Varies based on role and hiring company. Employment notices will offer details.

Teachers who feel the need for a change can pursue a number of career paths that still allow them to provide valuable contributions to children’s education beyond the classroom. For those who want to support children with special needs in a non-teaching role, these special education job alternatives may provide the perfect solution. Learn more about alternative special education careers.

10 Amazing Sensory Spaces

The basic definition of sensory overload is when the brain has issues with responding to information that comes through the seven senses. This means that normal environmental conditions can be a little jarring. It’s a very common condition in many children with ADHD, autism, and other disorders.

For them, a regular classroom could be a little overwhelming. That’s why it’s important to set up sensory spaces.

Sensory spaces are areas where these children can get the stimulation they need but in a certain way. For example, heavy fluorescent lighting can be harmful, so in a sensory space, you would trade it for dimmer lights.

In this article, we’re going to go over that and much more so you can set up your own sensory room in your home or classroom.

1. Post a Schedule Up

Many children benefit by knowing what’s coming up in the schedule next. These visual cues are great for those with autism who suffer from sensory overload. They might not like surprises or sudden changes that come with not having a known schedule.

You can post the schedule up in increments of time, or you can put the entire day’s schedule up at once. Your choice will depend on what you think is best for your kids.

2. Lighting

It’s strange to think that something small as lighting can influence our emotions. Loud, fluorescent lighting can make children feel uncomfortable. They just shine too brightly in their faces.

There are many other ways you can create light in your sensory room without the use of them. One idea is streaming holiday lights across the room. Candles are also a very calming source of light. Lava lamps are visually stimulating because of the light they give off and the motion of the lava slowly moving up and down inside the glass.

Any of these options are a better idea than just flicking on the overhead lights. It’s all about influencing the child’s mood through lights, and you will find a very negative reaction with the fluorescents in most cases.

3. Whiteboard

There are many things that a child can do with a whiteboard. You could set up a section of it that just has a bunch of magnetic letters and numbers. The child could have fun spelling out words, and learn at the same time.

You could also just provide markers and let the child’s imagination run wild. Any of these activities not only stimulate creativity, but also help develop fine motor skills as well.

4. Crash Pad

You can buy a crash pad or make one all on your own. All you need is a zip-up duvet that you can fill with cushiony items like pillows and stuffed animals. The kids will enjoy jumping on them as well as throwing them around.

It’s kind of surprising what kind of stimulation this will provide. It will provide body awareness and is actually pretty soothing.

5. Therapeutic Smells

Like lights, certain smells can incite different moods. For example, a light scent of lavender can leave someone feeling very calm. At the same time, some smells can be overwhelming.

Instead of going with strong sprays, pick up a few candles, incense, or scented oils. These will leave a light fragrance behind.

The child could also benefit from playing with scented toys like playdough. The smell plus the stimulation from the texture of the playdough can be very beneficial to the child.

If the child really responds well to scents, put a little bit of essential oil on a cotton ball and let them have at it.

6. Deep Pressure Items

Some children respond well to high pressure, such as being wrapped tightly in a blanket like a sushi roll. You could also fill up an inflatable pool with stuffed animals, pillows or blankets. They could enjoy snuggling up in it.

You could provide a tunnel that children can not only play in, but grab a blanket and escape in it as well. Being able to get away like this is great for when sensory stimulus becomes too much.

7. Music and Calming Sounds

Music does a lot of interesting things with one’s brain activity. It can change the way we think and feel. This being said, you don’t want to crank the music up to its loudest volume.

There is nothing wrong with lightly playing Celtic music, or calming nature sounds from a stereo or even your phone. This will have a very positive impact on some children.

8. Lego-Wall

Who didn’t like legos when they were children? Letting the children build isn’t only fun, but also promotes creativity and fine motor skills.

When the child is focused on building with legos, they will feel calm and it also provides them with great organization skills. Just be careful not to step on any of them.

9. Swings

Some children with autism and other disorders feel comfort from being able to rock back and forth in a rocking chair or swing. Swings do this by stimulating the child’s vestibular system.

They aren’t too hard to install and most of them come with detailed instructions so you don’t risk putting them up wrongly.

10. Tactile Center

All you need to set up a tactile center is a few containers and sensory materials like rice or sand. The child can stick their hands in the containers and play with it and it’s actually very calming.

Not only is a tactile center calming, but it allows them to develop and work on their fine motor skills.

Sensory Spaces Ideas for Your Students

Sensory spaces are important because they allow children who suffer from sensory overload to escape into a place that is more comfortable. Having coping materials at hand like swings, tactile centers, and deep pressure items can make all the difference for a child who needs it.

To learn more about sensory items and how they can help a child at home or in the classroom, visit our blog.

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.

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.

Identify

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

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.

Rectify

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 AbilityPath.org or on stopbullying.gov.

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 SpecialEduCareers.com 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.