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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.

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.