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Meet a Teacher: Insights From a Pre-K Special Education Teacher

Are you passionate about a career working with exceptional children? Educational requirements for special education jobs typically include a bachelor’s degree and a state-issued certification or master’s in special education. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary of a special education teacher in 2016 was $57,910. Academic and monetary aspects aside, how do you know if you’re cut out for this type of work? One of the best ways to gain insights is asking someone who already works in the profession. 

We recently spoke with Lois Shell, a pre-K special education teacher from Hillsborough County Public Schools in Tampa, Florida. Lois has worked with elementary-age students with special needs for more than 16 years, focusing on the pre-K population for the past 12 years.

What inspired you to go into special education?

I babysat for a two-year-old girl with cerebral palsy. She was my little inspiration for teaching special-needs kids. I also volunteered at a hospital when I was younger, which developed my interest in medical issues related to special-needs children as well.

What steps did you take to attain the position you have today? 

I received my degree in special education with a concentration in early childhood from the University of South Florida. While working on my undergraduate degree I worked at a preschool to get toddler and early childhood experience. I also did internships and had practicum experience where I assisted a teacher in a classroom. I completed my graduate degree through an online learning program. I was working full-time so I took one class per semester. Eleven classes later, I had a master’s degree! 

What does a typical day in your classroom look like? 

In my class I have a paraprofessional and a “unique needs assistant” who helps students with physical disabilities. After the kids arrive we have breakfast together and work on feeding skills. Back in the classroom we do a greeting and circle time. Then we move into center time, small groups and table time, working with students one on one if needed. Later we play outside, have story time, lunch time, music and movement, and rest time. Math, science and social studies are covered within circle time and small groups. Table time is where we do manipulative activities – handwriting if they’re ready for it and pre-handwriting skills if they’re not.

Describe the specific skills a special-needs teacher should have?

Patience. Patience. Patience! You also need to be able to think quickly on your feet. Every child, whether they have special needs or not, is different. You need to be ready to adapt, modify and think outside the box to accommodate each’s child’s specific needs. For example, I had a little girl who would always throw her spoon. The occupational therapist came up with the idea to put a cotton glove on her hand with Velcro that attached to her spoon handle. The next time she tried to throw her spoon it didn’t move, and her reaction was priceless!

What are your biggest challenges? 

Meeting all the students’ varying needs. They are all on different levels with different challenges. To handle them all, first and foremost, you need to love and have a passion for the child. No matter what the disability is, you embrace it and move forward without feeling sorry or having a pity party for them. My goal is to keep them safe, care about them and provide them with the best education I can.

What are the most rewarding parts of your job?

Seeing the children’s reactions to their successes and the smiles I’m able to put on their faces. I’ve always loved all the kids. I still keep in contact with one of my former students who is now 31 years old!

Do you have any tips or advice for anyone considering becoming a special education teacher?

Get as much hands-on exposure as you can with the special-needs population. Volunteer with organizations like the Special Olympics. Another valuable thing you can do is to talk with the parents of a child with special needs. They are one of the best sources of information.

Lois got her master’s degree online, on her own time, and you can too! Learn more about some of our favorite online degree programs for advanced degrees in special education.

Meet a Teacher: Working With Students With Emotional and Behavioral Disorders

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, emotional and behavioral disorders affect 10–15 percent of children globally. Disorders include attention-deficit hyperactivity (ADHD), autism, bipolar, anxiety and oppositional-defiant. Children experiencing behavioral disorders (BD) and emotional disorders (ED) often struggle with maintaining healthy interpersonal relationships and learning in a mainstream classroom setting. Special education jobs that include working with BD/ED students present unique challenges.

We interviewed Katrina Wojtasinski, M.S. Ed, a certified special education case manager at Falmouth High School in Falmouth, Massachusetts, to learn what it’s like to teach students experiencing emotional and behavioral disorders.

What inspired you to pursue a degree in special education?

As an adolescent I struggled with learning in a traditional setting, and a high school teacher told me I wasn’t “college material.” I was self-aware enough to know this wasn’t the truth and advocated to school administration to receive the support I needed. In college I was diagnosed with a learning disorder and developed the skills necessary to succeed in the classroom and beyond. My experiences helped me realize how important special education is for those with disabilities and those who don’t learn best in a traditional classroom. 

What steps did you take to attain the position you have today?

I started as a special education paraprofessional. I’m grateful my career began this way because I learned a lot about the field before deciding to further my education. I earned my bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts Boston and my Master’s of Science in Special Education from Saint Joseph’s University. I chose Saint Joseph’s University because it was one of the few U.S. colleges offering a science-based degree in the field.

I obtained certifications in special education, safety care, crisis prevention institute (CPI) and CPR/AED/First Aid.

What is a typical day in your classroom like?

I’m not sure there’s ever a “typical” day in special education but I have daily routines that help students build their organizational, social and writing skills. I work with students in a resource room for specialized instruction and in an inclusion classroom alongside typically developing students. In my resource classroom I provide children with a visual overview of the day, divided into directed instruction, mini-lessons and one-to-one or group work.

What skills are necessary for a teacher working with BD/ED students?

Patience! Although there’s tremendous gratification that comes with the field there are many, many days that bring challenges that test patience. Strong communication is also key as you’ll collaborate with various personnel involved in supporting students’ learning needs. Versatility and adaptability are also important because the environment and demands are always changing. 

What are some specific techniques educators use when working with BD/ED children?

I’ve had success with “extinction,” which is ignoring or redirecting attention-seeking behaviors. Applied behavior analysis (ABA), functional behavioral assessments (FBA) and the behavior intervention plans (BIP) are among several methods for parents, teachers and school professionals to collaborate on identifying, minimizing and replacing negative behaviors.

What are your biggest challenges?

I would say the challenges are more at the legislative level. Special-needs students are on individualized educational plans (IEPs) to best facilitate student learning. Lately they’ve become a source of contention, with court cases increasing constraints on them. 

What are the most rewarding parts of your job?

The kids, 100 percent. Everything I do is for the kids. 

Is there anything that surprised you about working with BD/ED students?

How humbling they are. I had a student who was totally self-aware of his behaviors but had a difficult time controlling them. He eventually reached a point where he could seek out a trusted adult for comfort, often crying because he realized he was having a tough day yet couldn’t control his response.

Do you have advice for anyone interested in teaching students with emotional/behavior issues?

Volunteer, network or obtain a position within the field. Most importantly, reflect on why you want to pursue the field. It sounds heroic to tell people “I’m a special education teacher,” or a “behavior specialist,” but at the end of the day the people who excel are the ones who put their heart into everything they contribute.

Katrina chose Saint Joseph’s University for her master’s degree, and through the university’s online degree program you can too! Find out more about other favorite online master’s degree programs.

Inclusion Strategies for Special Education Teachers

Inclusion programs are a hot topic in special education these days. These programs allow students with special needs to learn in classrooms alongside mainstream students. Research from the National Association of Special Education Teachers (NASET) reports that inclusive programming helps students with disabilities become more successful both socially and academically. 

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, more than 6.5 million students receive special education services, about 13 percent of total enrollment. Students receiving those services have learning, developmental and/or physical disabilities such as autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), cerebral palsy and Down syndrome.

Training Holds the Key

A special education teacher who receives specialized training is better prepared to meet the needs of exceptional students within an inclusion classroom. Many collegiate institutions offer certification programs, bachelor’s and master’s degrees for special education jobs. These programs, such as the one at Perdue University, provide instruction on the most innovative techniques to effectively overcome different learning challenges. 

Teachers may choose specific areas of concentration such as: learning how to best accommodate children on the autism spectrum; effective ways to work with students who have visual and hearing impairments (which is among the specializations taught at Saint Joseph’s University); or how to alter teaching methods to instruct culturally and linguistically diverse learners within an inclusive setting (taught at George Washington University, for example).

Programs for special education teachers also demonstrate how to develop individualized education programs (IEP) for exceptional students. The IEP contains goals for a student, customized to the student’s individual needs and abilities. In addition, special education teachers working in inclusive classrooms assist students in the area of emotional development, helping them learn to feel comfortable in a variety of social situations.

7 Top Tips for Inclusion Classroom Success

Classrooms in which students of all abilities work side-by-side can provide a positive and supportive setting for students with learning challenges. An influential study, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Special Education Professionals and shared by NASET in 2009, was strongly in favor of inclusion, reporting that inclusive classrooms are also beneficial for mainstream students by teaching them to develop empathy and improving their social skills.

Last year, however, Education Week reported on a newer study that found some negative effects on non-disabled and neurotypical students resulting from the practice. Even the study’s author suggested more research is required, adding: “The point is, here is a situation that we have and what systems of supports can improve outcomes for everyone?”

Special education teachers must balance the needs of all their students. Those who successfully integrate their special needs students into a traditional classroom utilize specific strategies to make it all work. Here are seven great tips for inclusion classroom success:

1. Organize: Clear clutter, stabilize furniture, secure any loose cables with tape and ensure there is plenty of space for students to safely move around the room. Post clear signage with symbols that point out exits in case of emergencies.

2. Grouping: Arrange student desks into groups of two to four desks to foster discussion and encourage cooperative learning.

3. Classroom decor: Decorate the classroom in neutral tones. Avoid bright, flashy colors as these can be distracting to some students or lead to sensory overload.

4. Home base: Occasionally the social and emotional challenges of a mainstream classroom may overwhelm a special needs student. Provide a safe space where students can go to reduce stress and regain control of themselves.

5. Transition time: Transition times can be particularly difficult for students with social or emotional challenges, leading to behaviors that may disrupt the entire class. Plan ahead and create a consistent routine for transitioning students from one activity to the next. 

6. Teamwork: Help ensure the success of your inclusive classroom by maintaining regular communication with all members of the instructional planning team. Team members may include parents, paraprofessionals, support staff and other specialists.

7. Break it down: Break down instruction into smaller tasks, starting simple and working your way into the more complex concepts, using a step-by-step approach that incorporates a lot of repetition and practice. 

Preparing Exceptional Students for the Real World

Working in an inclusive classroom setting with students of widely varying abilities may seem challenging, but the right education and training can help educators create a positive and effective learning environment, successfully meeting the needs of all their students. An inclusive learning environments ultimately allow students of all abilities to develop friendships and experience success that will prepare them to enter the world beyond the classroom.

For more articles like this check out SpecialEduCareers.com s blog here!

Integrating STEM into the Classroom

STEM: Not Just For After School

When you picture STEM (science, technology, math, engineering) activities, robotics, bridge building, flying drones and coding, comes to mind. Unfortunately what also comes to mind, is having students participate in these activities either before school or after school during a specialized club. But as our world continued to shift towards a global economy, our students need more and more access to these kinds of activities that will help promote non-academic skills such as creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration with peers to solve a problem. Even most teachers agree that developing these skills in our kids is important, they don’t know where to start to bring something like this into their classrooms, so here are three ideas to get you going.

Become the Guide on the Side

The number one reason the teachers have a hard time incorporating STEM activities into the classroom is because of their lack of familiarity with many of the activities that the students will be participating in. Many teachers do not have any experience with coding, let alone robotics. This can intimidate teachers when their own personal background knowledge is limited. However, this should not serve as a stumbling block for implementing STEM activities in the classroom. Teachers need to come to accept two things: #1. That their students may have more knowledge regarding a skill then they do and that’s okay. #2. Teachers should do the STEM activities with their children to continue to learn and develop their understanding of all things STEM. If teachers can do these two things, they will be successful in the long run. Teachers need to continue to shift their roles to being the “guide on the side” instead of the “sage on the stage.” If they can do this, then implementing STEM activities in the classroom will not be met with so so much anxiety.

Utilize Grants

Another common problem that teachers have when trying to implement STEM activities within the classroom is finding the resources to make it happen. We all know that teachers use their own personal money to support student education activities, but some of these new technologies and STEM activities can be somewhat pricey. Teachers should utilize grants whenever possible to help outfit their classroom with the materials that their students need to participate in STEM activities. Teachers should also focus on non-consumable materials, so that once they have purchased the materials that they can be used over and over again. The last thing the teachers need to remember is that building up their classroom’s STEM materials as a resource for their classroom may take some time, but if a teacher is consistent and adds a little bit each year, then they should have a variety of STEM activities in no time.

Start with Station Rotation STEM

Many teachers can also become overwhelmed when they think about creating a STEM lesson plan for the entire classroom. The lesson topic may be less familiar to the teacher and trying to come up with enough resources for the students can contribute to the stress. Teachers should start small and implement STEM activities into the classroom by starting with a station rotation. In a station rotation, students are in small groups and working on a variety of different activities. In this way the teacher can introduce STEM activities to children in the classroom one small group at a time. Station Rotation STEM activities can help teachers introduce STEM activities into the classroom in a more manageable way

STEM: An Important Component of Education

STEM activities are great activities for students to participate in. They strengthen crucial skills like critical thinking, creativity, communication, and collaboration. Teachers should not wait for an after school program to try to fill the void of STEM activities, but they should go forward with trying to provide these enriching activities in their classrooms so that their students are prepared with the necessary non-academic skills they need in order to be successful. Teachers don’t need to be experts at robotics or coding, they just need to provide the time for their students to implement STEM activities in the classroom and just dive right in!

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5 Reasons Why Blended Learning is Right for Special Education Students

Is Blended Learning Detrimental for Special Education Students?

Blended Learning occurs when a student learns partially online, within a brick and mortar building, and along an individualized learning pathway (www.blendedlearning.org). As Blended Learning continues to march steadily onward into many of our country’s schools, many are left wondering if it’s the right fit for some of our most at-risk students — namely, special education students. Many students that are part of our special education student population struggle with behavior problems, learning disabilities, low self-esteem, and a myriad of other problems. Can special education students function in a Blended Learning environment? Are they prepared to take control of their education through the use of technology tools? Will they adapt or will they woefully sink further and further behind because the instructional pedagogy is not right for them? Many educators are asking themselves these questions as they reflect about the cultural shift that is occurring in today’s classrooms.

Blended Learning & Special Education Students — A Perfect Match

Blended Learning will not only be beneficial for regular education students, but will benefit special education students because of its ability to allow students to have more control over the pace, path, and place where they learn. Coupled with the right data, Blended Learning is poised to help special education students make more growth than they ever have before. Special education students have qualified to receive specialized instruction for a set amount of service time each day, however Blended Learning can provide opportunities for special education students throughout the entire day that mirror these academic services. Special education students can look to a brighter future now that Blended Learning environments are on the rise in today’s classrooms because they promote many teaching strategies that are beneficial for them.

#1. Blended Learning Facilitates Small Group Instruction

Most of our special education students receive academic services by either being pulled out of their regular education classroom or the special education teacher pushes into the regular education classroom. Either way, special education students typically receive instruction in a small group setting. In the same way, Blended Learning focuses on providing students instruction in small-groups or even one-on-one from the classroom teacher. Because more students are guiding their own learning, the classroom teacher is freed up to provide more targeted instruction to students that need it, especially special education students.

#2. Blended Learning Provides Tailored Instruction

Blended Learning utilizes technology to help provide instruction to students. Most Blended Learning programs incorporate computer software programs that collect data through assessments or the programs actually focus on delivering content knowledge in an interesting way. Either way, these computer programs can help provide the instruction that is needed for students or even provide teachers with the information necessary to know what to teach students next.

#3. Blended Learning is Engaging

According to the book “Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools” by Horn & Staker, most students drop out of school not because they are struggling, but because they are bored. Student engagement is even more important than ever especially with some special education students who are subject to disabilities that impact their ability to focus and remain engaged in learning content. Blended Learning environments focus on using technology as a tool to not only engage students but to provide them specific data that motivates the students to personally improve their learning.

#4. Blended Learning Creates a Culture of Differentiation

The argument for the need of a Blended Learning environment focuses around the belief that all students are unique and learn in different ways and at different speeds. If there is one group of students that would thrive in a culture where student differences are celebrated — it would be special education students. Special education students often struggle with feelings of inferiority because they learn differently than other students. In Blended Learning environments, those differences are not swept under the rug, but brought out into the open to communicate to students that all learners are different and that’s okay.

#5. Blended Learning is Mastery-based Learning

Special education students work on individualized education plans that focus on helping students achieve goals and measure the progress they are making. If a special education student has not mastered a learning goal, then they continue to work on that goal. Blended Learning focuses on mastery-based learning in the same way. Because students are allowed to go at their own pace, students do not move on from a subject area until they have mastered the content. Special education students would be able to readily adapt to a Blended Learning environment due to this similarity.

Conclusion: Special Education Students Have Nothing to Fear From Blended Learning

Blended Learning has more in common with special education instruction then one might think. It’s easy to overlook the negative impact on certain sub-groups of students when new teaching pedagogies like Blended Learning are introduced, however Blended Learning environments mirror positive aspects of special education learning services and will foster a new understanding and appreciation for unique learning needs in all students.

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Also, if you are interested in seeing what it takes to have a careers in Special Education, see SpecialEducationCareers.com!

5 Jobs in Early Childhood Special Education

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

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

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

At-Home Teacher/Tutor 

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

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

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

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

Special Education Advocate

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

Special Education Administrator 

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

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

Learning Disabilities Teacher Consultant

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

Special Needs Guidance Counselor

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

Note: All salary information collected in June 2017. 

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

5 High-paying Special Education Jobs

You don’t always have to choose between a fulfilling career and one that pays well. For those who want to work in the field of special education while also earning a high salary, there are ways to meet both goals. Though it can take an upfront investment of time and money to earn the prerequisites (including advanced degrees) toward one of these five high-earning special education jobs, it’s still possible to make a good salary while helping children in need live their best lives.

1. Speech and Language Pathologist

Speech and language pathologists, also called speech therapists, support students with speech disorders and impediments in schools, hospitals and private practice. The median annual salary for speech and language pathologists was close to $74,680 in 2016 and ranged from $47,070 to $116,810. Experts such as Carrie Clark design resources and activities to support the families of children with speech challenges. 

2. Educational Audiologist

Of the best-paying special education jobs, this can be one of the most specialized. Educational audiologists work with hearing-impaired students in schools and clinics and help them achieve success in the classroom. Educational audiologists earned an annual mean salary of $76,720 in 2016.Audiologist salaries range between $50,490 and $113,540.

3. Occupational Therapist

In schools, clinics and hospitals, occupational therapists work with children both long- and short-term to help them overcome challenges resulting from physical and psychological disabilities. In 2017, occupational therapists earned a median income of $82,833. Some, like Dr. Frederick Covington, specialize in using technology to help children with special needs perform better in academic settings. 

4. Special Education Teacher

Special ed teachers work with schoolchildren who have a wide range of disabilities. These can include autism, emotional disorders, behavioral disorders, learning disabilities or speech disorders. They earn a median income of $52,497 annually and a special education teacher salary can range between $40,703 and $64,290, depending on the school district and grade level they teach. 

Whatever the salary, working with students with special needs can be remarkably rewarding and challenging. Read special education teacher Kyle Redford’s Twitter feed or her articles in Education Week for a glimpse into the life of a special education teacher.

5. Child Psychologist 

Child psychologists study and trace behavioral patterns in children. Those who work with special needs children focus on the impact of their disabilities on their lives and education. These professionals operate in private practice and/or full-time in schools and earn a median salary of $66,918. Some choose to move into lifestyle and behavior coaching, like Dr. Kevin Fleming. 

In general, special education jobs may not pay as well as the financial sector, but some areas can actually garner a high income. Whether you are motivated by salary or not, the rewards for professionals in these roles can be numerous. 

Note: All salary information retrieved in April 2017.

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

Dealing with Bullying: A Teacher Perspective

Dealing with Bullying: A Teacher PerspectiveAs upsetting as being bullied can be for any child, the impact can be even worse for those who require special education. Bullies pick their targets based on perceived physical, mental or emotional differences, resulting in special education students often being popular targets.

According to PACER’s National Bullying Prevention, children with disabilities are two to three times more likely to be bullied than their peers. Other studies and surveys have shown that students with physical or emotional conditions, such as autism and ADHD, are also highly targeted.

A special education teacher needs to be able to immediately spot aggressive behavior in the classroom and employ bullying strategies to put an end to the intimidation and make sure it doesn’t happen again. Students’ mental health and self-esteem depends on the instructor’s ability to protect them from bullies.

In an interview, Dr. Jackie Humans, author of 15 Ways to Zap a Bully!, said, “Some students have such severe disabilities that they are unlikely to ever be able to deflect bullying on their own. Clearly, these children need and deserve our protection.”

How to Spot Bullying

Physical bullying is probably the most easily recognized type. It can include any sort of violent hitting, pushing, tripping or breaking someone’s personal property.

Verbal bullying occurs when a bully says something to another student with intention to upset or hurt them. This can include name-calling, threats of physical harm, teasing, taunts or verbal abuse because of physical or mental disabilities.

Finally, there is social bullying. With the advent of social media, this can be especially difficult to spot, as it is rarely in person to a student’s face. This category can include spreading rumors about someone, excluding them from group activities or embarrassing them in front of others.

How to Handle Aggressive Situations

It is important to try to end the bullying immediately. According to stopbullying.gov, a federal resource managed by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, ignoring the problem or hoping the students will resolve it on their own may lead to an escalation.

Separate the students involved and make sure everyone is safe. Address any emotional or mental health needs of the students, especially if they suffer from an emotional or mental disability. And remember to follow through – just because the persecuted student has been removed from immediate intimidation doesn’t mean they are out of crisis.

The emotional and mental state of the bullying student should also be addressed, to reach the root of the behavior. This is also not the time to force an apology, nor is it the time to discipline them in front of the other students. If you need to talk to a student, do it separately, away from the gazes of others, as humiliation and embarrassment could paradoxically make them less likely to follow the rules in the future.

Prevent Behavior From Happening Again

Within the classroom, create rules that give students a positive framework of what’s acceptable and what isn’t. Always ask for student input, as this will give them ownership over the rules of their classroom. Any classroom should be a safe, encouraging place for all students. When there is a classroom culture that accepts differences and is inclusive, rates of bullying tend to go down.

Affirming good behavior almost always shows better returns than criticizing poor behavior. Make sure the bullying student knows exactly what they did, why it hurt and why it was unacceptable. Give them a clear path to address their behavior and make amends after the situation has calmed down. Try to find the root of their aggression; are they trying to fit in or impress others? Perhaps they have a learning disability or emotional issue themselves that is causing them to act out. If they are acting out because of external circumstances, such as emotional or physical abuse at home, you may need to bring in additional support.

When to Bring in Parents and Authorities

If no progress is being made with a particular student, the school may need to bring this to the attention of their parents. This should never be used as a threat to try to elicit better behavior from the student. The parents of the bullying student might be unaware a situation even exists, so make sure they understand what the school is doing to address the problem and suggest strategies they might employ themselves. Again, punishment rarely fixes issues of misbehavior and bullying.

If bullying reaches levels beyond what a special education teacher or the school administration can handle, such as extreme physical violence or threats, alerting law enforcement might become necessary. Disability harassment is illegal, as civil rights laws protect students who have physical, emotional and/or mental disabilities.

Special education teachers often have to manage a number of behavioral difficulties within their classrooms. It is important to keep this in mind when addressing bullying behavior. Always be calm, avoid judgment and do not threaten the aggressive student. Instead, teach why that kind of behavior is unacceptable. By fostering a supportive and calm environment in a special education classroom, students will feel both safe and protected.

Becoming a special education teacher includes many difficult and rewarding tasks. Learn more about options for pursuing advanced degrees to strengthen your special education training for situations like this and many others.

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.