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There is a wide variety of student personalities in the special education environment. Whether teaching elementary special education or middle school special education, the diversity of children is oftentimes amazing. Many times, children with learning disabilities such as dyslexia, can be grouped together where those with hearing or speech impairments may be in the same teaching circle. Those seeking special education training can specialize in specific learning disabilities, depending on the university programs they attend. When deciding on a bachelors degree in special education, verify the school has the classes needed to specialize in certain areas if applicable.
The area of special education has broadened widely. With advanced medical technology, children who once had lethal illnesses are living longer and attending school all the way through high school. Special education training has evolved with this, training teachers and administrators to better educate students who would have been cast aside and placed in mental institutions 50 years ago.
The Bureau of Labor statistics reports that a child qualifies for special education programs if they have specific learning disabilities, speech or language impairments, mental retardation, emotional disturbance, multiple disabilities, hearing impairments, orthopedic impairments, visual impairments, autism, combined deafness and blindness, traumatic brain injury, and other health impairments."
Families of children in special education can be some of the most understanding peopel, but they can also be the most demanding. Because of wanting to make the child feel "normal", parents can ask their child be "mainstreamed" into the general classroom setting. It will depend on the different schools' policies whether this is an option, but understand these families see their child as normal, even when the rest of the world doesn't. Trying to educate a severely disabled child can be a unique and rewarding opportunity.
Earning a masters in special education may be necessary, depending on the job you seek. Some school districts require a masters in addition to the extra year required for a bachelors degree in special education. The best way to decide if a master's degree is the route to go is to investigate the school districts that are most appealing and/or are in need of special education teachers. Some school districts may allow a teacher with a bachelors in special education to attend a masters program while teaching, but giving a time frame in which the masters program must be completed.
The National Association of Special Education Teachers (NASET.org) has additional information on obtaining a masters degree.
Because so many children who are in special education have medical conditions related to their disability (for example, Down's syndrome children can have heart problems, Syndromic children can have a variety of conditions) it may be beneficial for a special education teacher to be CPR certified. It may not be unusual to care for a child with Down 's syndrome after heart surgery or a child with severe Cerebral Palsy who requires tracheal suctioning or tube feeding.
Reliable websites are endless for researching the different medical conditions you may see but keep in mind, one of the best resources is the parents. Ask for recent medical records to be available and ask frequently if any changes have been made in the child's care or treatments. If the parents are not reliable resources, ask to talk to the child's doctor or the school nurse.
The National Association of Special Education Teachers (http://www.naset.org/) is a good place to start when deciding on a special education degree. They offer conferences, publications, workshops, career advice, the latest job opportunities, and teacher to teacher forums for those interested in special education training.
Choosing special education as your field of teaching can be a rewarding experience but it can also be extremely frustrating. Large amounts of paperwork and heavy course loads can be daunting. Because our society is to litigiously based, proper documentation of each child's progress will be examined by administration because funding is different with special education classes. Additionally, parents will expect equal education for their child, even if the child appears to be unable to learn beyond the level of an infant.
Before deciding special education training is the right route, volunteer for programs that specialize in working with those with special needs. Special Olympics (SpecialOlympics.org), Teachers Count (TeachersCount.org), Austim Organization (KylesTreeHouse.org), or United Cerebral Palsy (UCP.org) all offer incredible volunteer opportunities and allow interaction in a more neutral and less pressured environment than a classroom.