Special education teachers are responsible for assisting each child in achieving his or her goals for the academic year. Setting goals through the development of an Individualized Education Program (IEP) is an important part of working with special needs children. An IEP is a legally binding document developed by a team of teachers, school district representatives, members of a student’s family and sometimes even the student. While literacy and other academic goals are part of an IEP, the team also addresses nonacademic and extracurricular goals. While earning a Master of Science Degree in Education for Special Education, master’s degree candidates gain knowledge and skills that assist in the development and implementation of IEPs for a wide range of special needs students.
Development of IEPs
A special education teacher is an essential part of an IEP team. In addition to remaining compassionate and respectful towards special needs students and their families, special education teachers assist in the development of IEPs in the following ways:
- Bringing a comprehensive knowledge of learning challenges and disabilities
- Ability to suggest appropriate technologies or modifications to ensure an effective learning environment for children with different disabilities
- Possessing a complete understanding of legal and ethical parameters for providing education to special needs students
- Offering experience in providing positive behavior modifications for a wide range of behavioral challenges
- Advocating for "least restrictive" learning environments, with an emphasis on special needs children learning alongside peers without disabilities whenever possible
Implementation of IEPs
Once an IEP is in place, a special education teacher helps to ensure that the classroom adheres to the IEP’s requirements. Because IEPs contain very clear goals and modifications for each student, classroom teachers can follow the IEP as though it were a roadmap.
It is important for special education teachers to spend time reading and understanding each student’s IEP. Depending on the IEP, a teacher may need to provide assistive technologies, such as computer software, visual aids or mobility equipment. The IEP may specify that a child receive special modifications, such as extra time for testing, oral instructions or recorded lessons. It is important for the special education teacher to ensure that the classroom adheres to the IEP and that any issues come to the IEP team’s attention.
Special education teachers become expert participants in the design and implementation of IEPs. Other members of the IEP team depend on special education teachers’ assessments of disabilities, data analysis or strategic development to help special needs children overcome learning barriers. As such, special education teachers provide essential resources, information and perspective during the IEP process.
Working with special needs children as a special education teacher requires a deep level of compassion for students and families, a commitment to collaborating with other entities and a student-focused approach to creating dynamic, effective IEPs.
Learn more about the A-State MSE Special Ed Instructional Specialist online program.