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Special Education Today

Special education teachers work with children who have varying degrees of disabilities. These teachers have many responsibilities and often work with difficult circumstances. In addition to basic teaching practices, these teachers often provide guidance, encouragement, and a positive, safe environment for children with special needs to learn and grow. Below is a glimpse inside the responsibilities and requirements of special education teachers today.

Individual Needs

Special education teachers work on an individual basis with children who have mild to severe mental disorders and/or learning disabilities. These teachers often deal with cases of emotional issues, speech disabilities, physical impairments, vision and hearing issues, brain development issues, emotional problems, and autism. Special education teachers focus on teaching children basic skills and literacy. Learning programs are custom designed to meet each child's specific needs so that both the teacher and the student get the most out of the experience. Special education teachers work with children from kindergarten all the way through high school.

Community Involvement

Students with special needs are broken down into categories, and then assigned certain teachers who are trained to deal with their specific conditions. Special education teachers often work with other teachers to help identify impairments or learning disabilities early, so that children have the best chance at a proper education. These teachers then design precise lesson plans (often referred to as Individualized Education Programs (IEPs)) for each student to give instruction in a way the child can understand. Problem solving, working with others in small groups, basic life skills, and reading skills are the most commonly emphasized areas. Special accommodations are often designed and provided by the teacher to help the student when needed. These accommodations may include lengthening test times, arranging for oral exams, or providing an assistant.

Special education teachers are highly involved with parents, other staff members, school administrators, and student physicians. They work very closely with these people to monitor progress, change courses, suggest home teaching programs, and promote as independent a lifestyle as possible. These teachers are very concerned with their student's emotional, behavioral, social, and academic health; he or she strives to make the child feel as comfortable as possible in normal social and educational settings, in daily life, as well as helping to prepare for future employment.

Today, most schools are becoming more inclusive for students with special needs. Special education teachers are working with general education teachers on a regular basis to provide traditional classroom settings for every student. These teachers often help general educators to develop modified lesson plans, and educate others on special teaching methods to better help children with disabilities. Special education teachers are often responsible for organizing teachers, assistants, physicians, social workers, and other academic professionals to design integrated education systems. An increasingly large portion of a special education teacher's job involves advocating for children, working with parents, occupational therapists, administrators, other teachers, and social workers to get the needed tools and best possible results for each child.

While most special education teachers work within a school system, some may work on an independent basis. Some teachers may move from school to school to work with students to provide specialized help in traditional classrooms, or on an individual in-home tutoring schedule. Other special education professionals work in residential facilities, or in hospital settings.

New Technologies

Today, technology is playing a huge role in helping educators teach children with special needs. Teachers have many more resources to reach students than they have in the past, and make frequent use of digital media, speech programs, interactive computer equipment, audio, and video equipment. These tools provide better communication between teacher and student, and provide a more efficient learning environment.


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