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 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.

Focus Your Special Education Career With a Specialization

Focus Your Special Education Career With a SpecializationFor special education professionals, choosing a specialty can have personal and professional benefits. Focusing on one area allows you to tailor your training and professional development in a defined space. It enables you to develop your expertise into a valuable career advantage. From a personal standpoint, specialization provides the opportunity to concentrate on the role that is most fulfilling, and where you feel you can make the best contribution to the profession and society.

There are many paths within the realm of special education, so there are many options to help you find the role that best fits your individual needs and goals. 

Here are just a few of the diverse avenues of specialization available in special education. 

Applied Behavior Analysis

Applied behavior analysis involves the study of human behavior – or why people do the things they do. In an educational setting, it is used to understand why students act in particular ways. The results of this type of analysis are used to build an educational strategy that supports the student’s needs and gives them the best quality of life. If you are interested in this field, you might consider pursuing a Master’s in Special Education, Applied Behavior Analysis Emphasis, such as the one offered by George Mason University.

Language and Cultural Diversity

Some educational institutions serve culturally diverse communities where a variety of languages are spoken. Since students are more likely to thrive and succeed when supported by professionals with whom they can communicate effectively, there is a need for multilingual special education professionals.

For those who would enjoy honing and combining their teaching and linguistic skill sets, a Special Education for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Learners Graduate Program, such as the one George Washington University offers, would be a smart option to consider.

Postsecondary Transition

Young adults with educational challenges are often particularly in need of support when deciding which path to pursue after completing their secondary education. This is a time when professionals in the special education field can play a pivotal role, assisting with the transition into adulthood, and perhaps paving the way to a future career.

One way to obtain the qualifications needed to help special needs students navigate their postsecondary options is by completing a program such as theGraduate Certificate in Transition Special Education available through George Washington University.

Autism Spectrum Disorder

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in 68 school-age children have been diagnosed with autism in the U.S. That creates a significant need for educational resources and professionals who can support young people with an autism spectrum disorder. These students have specific educational needs and challenges, and professionals with expertise in this area can help ensure programs are designed to best meet those needs while also accommodating the individual learning styles of the children. 

Completion of a program focusing solely on this area such as the Master of Science in Special Education – Autism Spectrum Disorder offered by Saint Joseph’s University can provide an excellent foundation for this career path.

Support for Hearing-impaired Students 

Without the proper support and resources, students who are deaf or have profound hearing loss may struggle academically, especially if they also have educational challenges. It’s a relatively rare combination for professionals with special education training to also be able to communicate with hearing-impaired students.

To achieve these qualifications, you could consider a program such as the Master of Science in Education – Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing PK-12 certification offered by Saint Joseph’s University.

Learn more about specializations offered in our favorite online degree and certification programs.

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.

Is a Special Education Career Right for You?

Is a Special Education Career Right for You?Becoming a special education teacher is a high and honorable calling. Teaching children with physical, mental or emotional impairments can be difficult but it’s also incredibly rewarding. Many special education teachers find a great deal of fulfillment helping students learn and grow.

However, it’s not just emotionally gratifying. There is currently a huge shortage of special education teachers across the United States. As more children are diagnosed with disabilities and older teachers leave the workforce, the national demand for jobs in special education is only expected to grow, offering more career opportunities.

As expected for such an important endeavor, the requirements for special education jobs are high. As such, determining a clear career path can be complex. For those drawn to special education, this article discusses the training, tools, qualifications and credentials to begin or further develop your career.

Career Path Varies by State

In most cases in the U.S., finding a job in special education requires a bachelor’s degree, state-specific certification and a master’s degree. In most states, a bachelor’s degree is the lowest bar for employment. Having a master’s degree or other specialized certification is particularly important, as working with disabilities such as autism, hearing impairment, vision impairment or any emotional disturbances requires specific training. To become a fully qualified special education teacher, further education as well as state certification are often needed get the necessary skills to help students succeed.

Some colleges and universities, such as Saint Joseph’s University, offer an online master’s degree in special education as well as certification programs, with concentrations in autism spectrum disorder, hearing impairment and the Wilson Reading System. Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota offers an online master’s degree in special education with state licensure options. George Washington University also offers both online master’s degrees and certificate programs in special education, focusing on culturally and linguistically diverse learners and those looking to help special needs students transition into post-secondary education. 

Alongside these educational skills, many states have additional requirements. These usually include fingerprinting, background checks, registering with state officials and passing state exams. In California, for example, having a bachelor’s degree and completing a number of assessments will only provide a preliminary credential for special education. For a Level I or Level II Professional Clear Credential to teach special education, completing a fifth year of study is required, as well as approved courses in special education. To get a certificate and license to teach special education in New York state, a number of state-registered programs for students with disabilities are required, along with teaching certification exams, a variety of tests and three years of classroom experience. For specific special education jobs, the requirements are listed on each state’s education department website.

Demand for Skills May Drive up Salaries

Regarding salary expectations, even with the increased demand for highly trained educators, the level of financial compensation for special education jobs varies widely by state, depending on the school of employment and the level of education that an instructor teaches. For example, a special education teacher would earn more at a secondary school than they would teaching at an elementary school.

The 2015 median pay for a special education teacher in the United States was $56,800. In California, the average salary for a special education teacher is $65,370 – $12,000 more than the national average of $53,220, and the need for special education teachers in California is expected to grow by 20 percent over the next two years. In Texas, the salary of $52,283 is slightly lower than the national average, but demand is expected to grow as much as 41 percent by 2018. In Florida, the average salary of $41,741 is quite a bit below the national average, but the demand for special education teachers is expected to grow 19 percent by 2018. Other states that can expect an increased demand for special education teachers are Georgia, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Arkansas.

If you have the right temperament and drive for such a career, investing in a special education path is likely to pay off in terms of both personal gratification and professional opportunities. Having extra training and knowledge will also allow you to better serve your students, guiding them towards their full potential while also meeting the growing demand for special education teachers nationwide.

Find Your Fit: Top Five Special Education Specialties

For compassionate and skilled educators, becoming a special education teacher is just one option. As classrooms have changed to reflect the needs of special education students, so too have the career options available. Check out the infographic below, which highlights the Top 5 Special Education Jobs.

Recreational Therapist

Job description:

  • Use arts, drama, music, dance, sport, and games to engage students
  • Develop treatment plans to meet students’ needs and interests
  • Help students develop social skills

Salary:

$$$$$

Range: $28,010 – $72,340

Average: $46,410

Required skills:

  • Resourcefulness: Ability to customize treatment plans to each student’s needs
  • Physical strength
  • Patience: Ability to work with students who require more or care and may be slow to progress

Stats on the job market:

  • By 2024, the job market demand is expected to increase by 7 percent
  • States with the highest concentration of jobs: District of Columbia, Connecticut, Utah

 

Occupational Therapist

Job description:

  • Design physical exercises to aid students in improving basic motor functions
  • Modify or recommend special classroom equipment; instruct students and teachers on how to use equipment
  • Help students improve decision-making, problem-solving and perceptual skills

Salary:

$$$$$

Range: $54,200 – $119,720

Average: $71,480

Required skills:

  • Communication: Ability to listen attentively to students and explain what tasks they want students to perform
  • Physical: Ability to move people or equipment
  • Compassion: Ability to be empathetic to the needs of students and their families

Stats on the job market:

  • By 2024, the job market demand is expected to increase by 27 percent
  • Elementary and secondary schools are the third-largest employers
  • States with the highest concentration of jobs: New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts

 

Speech Language Pathologists

Job description:

  • Aid students who have difficulties with speech, articulation, language or swallowing
  • Teach students how to make sounds, improve their voices, or develop muscles used to swallow
  • Identify treatment options and work with teachers and parents to carry out programs

Salary:

$$$$$

Range: $47,070 – $116,810

Average: $65,540

Required skills:

  • Analytical: Ability to arrive at an appropriate diagnosis and develop a treatment plan
  • Detail-oriented: Ability to take detailed notes on a patient and patient progress
  • Patience: Ability to work with students who require more or care and may be slow to progress

Stats on the job market:

  • By 2024, the job market demand is expected to increase by 21 percent.
  • 2 in 5 speech therapists work in schools
  • States with the highest concentration of jobs: Arkansas, West Virginia, North Dakota

 

Autism Spectrum Disorders Specialist

Job description:

  • Assess the skills and needs of students identified to be on the autism spectrum
  • Adapt general lessons and develop individualized education programs (IEPs)
  • May work in a self-contained classroom with additional teaching supports or in a regular education classroom

Salary:

$$$$$

Range: $37,760 – $93,090

Average: $57,910

Required skills:

  • Resourcefulness: Ability to customize treatment plans to each students’ needs
  • Communication: Ability to listen attentively to students and explain what tasks they want students to perform
  • Patience: Ability to work with students who require more care and may be slow to progress

Stats on the job market:

  • Autism is the fastest-growing development delay in American children; its prevalence has increased by nearly 120% since 2000
  • States with the highest concentration of jobs: West Virginia, New Jersey, New York

Ready to get started? Find a Special Education program that’s right for you.

Source of information: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Special Education Career Profile: Behavior Specialist

 

Special Education Career Profile: Behavior Specialist

There are many options in the field of special education. Often, it is thought that being in the education field means you are in a classroom.   But what if you don’t want to be in a classroom setting, but still want to be a powerful influence in the lives of students who may struggle? If you enjoy analyzing behaviors and creating interventions to effect a positive change, a Behavior Specialist may be the job for you.

Where Do Behavior Specialists Work?

Behavioral Specialists can work in a client’s home. He or she can also work in a clinical setting like a hospital, or be in private practice or a part of a group practice. A Behavioral Specialist can also work for a school or a school district visiting a different school each day. 

Who Do Behavior Specialists Work With?

They work with individuals who have disabilities, such as Autism, emotional disorders, or ADHD, that can affect learning or social skills. They can work with a wide range of ages from early childhood to elderly, depending on the setting.

What Do They Do? 

In the educational field, a Behavior Specialist usually has multiple schools they oversee, ranging from Pre-K to 12th grade. They are deemed with the task of observing a child with behavior problems in a classroom. They are looking for antecedent behaviors, patterns of behaviors, and the “problem” behaviors. 

The Behavior Specialist may conduct behavioral evaluations, and then will write up a plan and offer suggestions to the classroom teacher on he or she can do differently to help the child. The Behavior Specialist will also collect data and monitor the student over a period of time.

Since the Behavior Specialist is not in the classroom each and every school day, one of their jobs includes offering support to the classroom teacher. The Behavior Specialist can provide training in behavioral techniques and strategies to the classroom teacher to implement the behavior plan.

Check out Saint Joseph’s University: A One-Stop Center for Autism Support.

What Type of Education Does Someone Need to Become a Behavior Specialist?

A degree is required to become a Behavior Specialist. An undergraduate degree may be obtained in psychology, sociology, human services, special education, or behavioral science. Some employers may prefer a master’s degree.

Depending on the state and your position, a license may be required as well.

There is an additional certification for the Behavior Specialists, which is called Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA). To obtain this certification, you must have a master’s degree, several hundred hours of practicum, and pass an exam. While this is an intense and time-consuming certification, BCBA is a growing field with many job opportunities.

Behavior Specialist Salary Info

The national average salary of a Behavior Specialist is $39,604. However, this can vary greatly depending on the setting and location.

If you have BCBA certification the average salary is $58,615-a remarkable increase.

Other Resources:

Top Special Education Degree Specializations to Consider in 2018

Check out the Parent Support Center

 

 

 

 

 

 

Traumas In Youth, Strategies To Heal

Recognizing Trauma in Today’s Youth

Increasingly, school aged children are faced with traumatic events and situations that make them vulnerable to risk factors associated with mental health illnesses, chronic absenteeism, and low academic achievement, which can impact their overall quality of life.  Furthermore, students with special needs are likely to experience traumatic events at a higher rate than their non-disabled peers possibly due to cognitive, social/behavioral, and/or communication challenges.

It is important that parents and teachers collaborate and develop a plan to recognize triggers and cues associated with signs of distress with the special needs population.

statistics for child trauma

Triggers

Children with special needs rely heavily on past experiences associated with trauma and are influenced greatly by the emotional reactions seen in their adult caregivers. Although each child is unique, those who know the child best can often predict the behavior or reaction likely to happen based on their observations of the child’s response to past stress related situations. 

Having an understanding and awareness to these triggers and cues can offer great insight into planning a crisis support plan that outlines specific effective interventions to minimizing the stress related impact. Common signs of distress reliant upon age and emotional development may include:

  • Becoming withdrawn, quiet or isolating from peers
  • Changes in speech patterns
  • Psychosomatic complaints (stomachaches, headaches, minor complaints of bumps and bruises)
  • Physical symptoms relating to tics, tremors, excessive sweating
  • Increasingly irritable or distractible
  • Task avoidance to preferred activities
  • Verbal or physical aggression
  • Outbursts or temper tantrums to changes in routines
  • An overreaction to common occurrences
  • Appearing lethargic or fatigued, lack of energy
  • Disruption in sleep and eating patterns
  • Regressive behavior (thumb sucking, enuresis, nightmares, clingy
  • Exhibiting overly anxious or worrisome tendencies
  • Difficulty concentrating or learning or problem solving

Strategies to Heal

Sensory or physical limitations: Students with vision, hearing or physical limitations that do not possess developmental or cognitive deficits can understand information that is appropriate to their age.

During stressful situations, safety and mobility become a heightened need for reassurance. Practice safety drills, patterns of exit/entry into safe places, use visual supports in conjunction with verbal signals, create a safety box of materials (flashlight, batteries for hearing aids, item of comfort), use concrete, clear explanations and check for understanding.

Emotional Behavioral limitations: Students with emotional or behavioral limitations can have limited coping skills for normal, every day life situations and are particularly vulnerable when exposed to trauma or stress. Increased noncompliance, physical and verbal aggression, elopement, oppositional behavior, and risk-taking behaviors (sexually acting out, substance abuse, self-injurious, suicidal thoughts, fascination with violence or weapons) are examples of critical warning signs that warrant immediate attention.

Reviewing functional behavioral assessments and Behavior Intervention Plans, establishing a check in system with mentors, providing immediate schedules of reinforcement and consistent routines with frequent breaks are strategies to employ. 

Learning Disabilities: Students with learning limitations may require additional supports to process thoughts, feelings, and their understanding of events and information. They may experience challenges with concepts involving time, space, abstract reasoning, language and semantics.

Use concrete vocabulary terms, show visuals, provide clear, concise explanations and ensure their understanding.

Acts of healing that help special needs students process trauma and stress can benefit all children include:

  • Making cards and writing letters to the parties involved
  • Drawing and coloring in journals
  • Honoring affected parties with acts of kindness
  • Fundraising for relief efforts
  • Volunteering for charitable events

Experiencing trauma and stress is universal to all children, but employing effective, specialized supports proactively can lessen the impact it has on their overall well-being. To learn more about helping children heal from trauma, visit https://www.nctsn.org

 

 
 

Top Special Education Degree Specializations to Consider in 2018

If you are passionate for changing the lives of children and young adults and have a gift for teaching students with specific needs, enhancing your skillset by choosing an area of specialization in the field of special education can provide unique benefits and make you more marketable in today’s workforce.

Here’s some guidelines to help you figure out exactly what it takes to earn your special education degree and explore some of the possible special education degree specializations that you should consider in 2018.

In Demand Special Education Degree Specializations

The demand for special education teachers has surged across the United States as a Master’s degree in Special Education is currently ranked 6th in popularity of the 50 most popular online master’s degree programs.  Below are several specializations gaining increased interest for students wanting to concentrate their talents for students with specialized needs. 

While most master’s program do not require students to select an area of specialization, there are significant benefits to doing so. Specializing your education not only makes you more valuable — it also makes the education you provide to students and clients more valuable. 

Here are several specializations that have especially gained popularity for students beginning their degrees in 2017 & 2018:

special education specializations to consider in 2018Mild/Moderate Disabilities

This specialization prepares you to effectively teach students with varying exceptionalities to include, autism spectrum disorders, emotional and behavioral difficulties, specific learning and language impairments, traumatic brain injuries, and orthopedic and other health impairments.

Coursework will likely include:

  • Curriculum, Assessment and differentiated instructional practices
  • Language Development
  • Research based practices in Math and English Language Arts
  • Behavioral, Social and Communication disorders
  • Classroom Management

Typical program of studies for mild/moderate disabilities range from 30-40 required hours of credits once an elementary or secondary teaching certification is obtained. This specialization applies to students in Kindergarten through 12th grade, up to the age of 22.

The core curriculum of the online MSEd in Special Education from Purdue University focuses on mild intervention for high-incidence conditions to  intense intervention. The program offers several options to meet your career needs.

Deaf or Hard Of Hearing

The DHH specialization qualifies general education teachers, special education teachers, speech pathologists, occupational and physical therapists, and sign language interpreters to work with students with varying levels of hearing loss. Coursework can take up to 2 years to complete for you to gain competencies that will help support the learning and development of pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students.

Topics in coursework will likely include:

  • Differentiated Curriculum and Instruction
  • Language Acquisition and Literacy Development
  • Sign language systems in Education
  • Adaptive and Assistive Technology

Saint Joseph’s University’s online Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing PK-12  program of study uniquely prepares students in the latest technology to facilitate engaging learning experiences, as well as plan specialized curriculum, effectively manage a classroom, and provide opportunities to enhance sign language interpretation skills. The last course in Saint Joseph’s University program involves field experience comprised of a 14-week student teaching assignment intended to immerse you in the deaf or hard of hearing teaching experience.

Early Childhood Special Education

You’ll assist children with both mild/moderate and severe emotional or learning difficulties. You’ll also learn how to teach children who have suffered brain injuries/damage.

However, unlike the other areas, you’ll only be able to teach children from birth to pre-kindergarten.

Throughout your coursework, you’ll study several forms of developmental psychology, learn how to assess different needs and disorders, and even learn how to arrange your classroom so that it can best benefit your students.

You’ll likely also spend a lot of time learning the basics of child psychology, and undergo on-the-job training so that you can handle emergency health situations and behavioral issues in the classroom.

The online Master’s Degree in Special Education from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota focuses on developing the ability of students to:

  • Create an inclusive environment in a mainstream classroom, allowing each student to learn to their full potential
  • Reach students across all levels and types of disabilities by developing understanding of various student backgrounds and disabilities
  • Every course touches upon intercultural competence

Blindness/Visual Impairments

Coursework in this specialization will prepare you with the skills and knowledge to effectively address the unique educational needs of students with visual impairments or blindness. Candidates take core courses in general education, special education and specialization courses in visual impairments.   

Specifically, teaching balance, sensory/spatial awareness, as well as body awareness are key life skills in addition to teaching students how to read and write in Braille.

Knowledge of specialized equipment and interactive software programs enhance the learning experience and compensatory skill development for students with visual impairments.

Course topics include:

  • Literary Braille
  • Communication Systems Used by Persons with Visual Impairments
  • Instructional Systems for Utilization of Low Vision
  • Assistive and Adaptive Technology
  • Orientation and Mobility

Applied Behavior Analysis

If your interest lies in how to better understand human behavior to help people achieve their maximum potential, then obtaining this next certification will prove beneficial. The field of Applied Behavior Analysis has an expected growth rate of 33% by 2020. Hence, the expertise of ABA specialists is critically in demand of social service organizations, public education programs, non-profits, and other industries where understanding and improving human behavior are crucial.  

Saint Joseph’s University offers an online Applied Behavior Analysis Concentration that prepares individuals to address the demands of challenging behaviors seen in Special Education settings. The courses are intended to prepare students for the BCBA certification exam.

The assessment of individuals with behavioral challenges, developing behavior intervention plans, and studying the environmental impact on behavior are among the skills learned.

Coursework will likely include:

  • Behavioral Development
  • Clinical Behavioral Analysis
  • Ethical Principles in Behavioral Analysis

Graduates of a certificate in applied behavior analysis are prepared for positions such as behavior specialists, criminal justice professionals, human services professionals, and substance abuse counselors.

Occupational Therapy

Every state has different standards for credentialing the role of an Occupational Therapist — but across all of them, a master’s degree is the minimum requirement for entry to the field. In school environments, occupational therapists are part of ESE Support Services that work with students to assist in all types of activities from caring for daily needs to using a computer or participating in physical exercises to increase strength and dexterity.

Employment of occupational therapists is projected to grow 24 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations.

 

Coursework will likely include:

  • Theoretical Basis of Occupational Therapy
  • Assessment of Patients
  • Design and Implementation of Therapy Plans
  • Applicable Laws and Standards of Professional Ethics
  • Supervised Clinical Experience

The median annual Occupational Therapist salary is $83,901, as of January 30, 2018, with a range usually between $76,854$91,415, however this can vary widely depending on a variety of factors (including geography).

Licensing requirements by state vary, but typically require candidates to graduate from an accredited program in occupational therapy and pass examinations. Certification is optional but desirable, and is administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy.

How Much Can You Expect To Earn?

happy female graduateWhile salaries vary county-to-county and state-to-state, here is a quick breakdown of the (national) median annual special education salaries across different tracks now:

  • Preschool Special Ed Teachers: Roughly $50,000
  • Elementary Special Ed Teachers: Roughly $50,000
  • Middle School Special Ed Teachers: Roughly $53,000
  • High School Special Ed Teachers: Roughly $55,000

Find An Online Master’s in Special Education Degree That’s Right For You

These in demand special education degree concentrations allow you to gain the knowledge and expertise in helping students with varying exceptionalities who may learn differently and respond to approaches other than conventional methods of teaching. Click here to find a special education program or use our job finder board to connect with the right opportunity for you.

 

 

 
 
 
 

The Art of Special Education Administration

Looking for career advancement? Becoming a special education administrator is one way of taking your career to the next level.

Characteristics of an Effective Administrator

There are some general qualifications employers look for when seeking someone in administration. Some of these qualities are:

  • Overseers. An administrative role requires strong managerial skills. Special education administrators oversee teachers and principals from various schools. They can also be responsible for the oversight of members in a school district to ensure they are complying with federal, state and local regulations.
  • Leaders. Strong leaders create an environment for success. Leaders set a positive vision of direction for their employees. They invest in developing people and help them utilize their strengths and skills.
  • Experienced Teachers. To become an administrator, it is important to have experience in the classroom. Good teachers are at the core of a solid and successful school system. Walking in another’s shoes is a great way to understand what employees face daily. Being in the classroom also provides hands-on experience in understanding students and learning.
  • Problem Solvers. Special education administrators are faced with a variety of challenges. So having strong problem-solving skills is critical to their role. Problems solvers can look at issues in unique and innovative ways. They shape the environment by using resources creatively so plans can be carried out effectively.
  • Decision Makers. Being an administrator requires complex decision making. Decisions on how to spend money, productivity, training, and the effectiveness of programs are all things a special education administrator may face. Taking an active role and being confident in decision-making abilities creates a more secure workplace.

Education and Wages

teacher talking to students in hallwayA higher level degree is required for those seeking an administrative role. But with today’s technology, furthering one’s education is easier than ever. Online programs offer flexibility for the working student. Students can easily work when it is convenient for them while still receiving the support and guidance of professors in their degree program.

Getting this higher level degree can pay off when it comes to salary. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2016, the median salary of an educational administrator was $92,510, well above that of a special education teacher.

Duties

Administrators in special education have a range of duties. At the center of all those duties is making sure student’s needs are being met. Other duties include:

  • Strategic planning. Each school has a mission and a vision. Strategic planning is simply the roadmap of how to accomplish this. A special education administrator will help create measurable goals in order to meet the mission and vision of the school. This helps ensure the program’s success along the way.
  • Monitoring budget. Administrators are responsible for planning the budget and making sure the program is operating within those limits. They think of ways to operate more efficiently as well.
  • Compliance. Special education is held to rules and regulations set by federal and state governments. Funds are allocated for specific areas and purposes. The role of administration is to make sure the way the money is used is documented and used properly and resourcefully.
  • Improving academic outcomes. It is critical to the success of a school system to make sure improvement is happening. A special education administrator can look and see if standards are being met academically. This analysis can be used to encourage change or continue to implement strategies that are working on a wider platform.
  • Guidance. Support is critical for teachers, principals and other administrators. Effective special education administrators will help mobilize others. As they travel to various schools, they will offer encouragement, help troubleshoot problem areas, and carry out plans.