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Arkansas State University

Teaching Special Education Students

Before earning your Master of Science in Education for Special Education degree, it is important to understand the unique role of special education teachers. Special education teachers become important advocates for children with disabilities and must be qualified to assess a wide range of learning disabilities. Additionally, they must be able to assist a team in the development of Individualized Education Programs (IEP) for each child. Teaching special education demands the ability to legally and ethically implement appropriate techniques, discipline and modifications in order to provide the least restrictive learning environment for each child.

Understand a wide range of learning challenges and disabilities

Teaching special education requires you to assess a wide range of mild to severe learning disabilities. Because IEP teams individualize plans for each child, there are many options for the educational and disciplinary approaches teachers can take. Special education teachers must be able to analyze data from assessments and provide appropriate positive behavior support and intervention plans for each child. A master’s program in special education provides coursework that assists candidates in developing an understanding of various disabilities as well as techniques and approaches that work best.

Work as an important member of a team

Special education teachers often must work with a team of other teachers, parents or representatives from the school district. These teams work together to create IEPs, to address specific problems or to decide on new strategies for helping exceptional children thrive in general education settings. Special education teachers bring specialized knowledge to these teams, including an understanding of legal considerations as well as a toolbox of behavior modification strategies, teaching techniques and assistive technologies. Special education teachers routinely consult with general education teachers or partner with occupational therapists or guidance counselors to overcome challenges with particular students.

Advocate for assistive technology and modifications

Increasingly, there are opportunities for schools to utilize assistive technologies that can help compensate for a child’s learning disabilities. For example, children who are hearing impaired can watch lectures in sign language. Text-to-speech software is available for children who have trouble reading. Teaching special education requires you to remain knowledgeable about new developments in assistive technology and to consult with the school district about which systems to purchase. Special education teachers are often responsible for training staff and students in how to use these technologies. Additionally, special education teachers can advocate for students by encouraging curricular or testing modifications, such as more frequent breaks or extra time for testing.

Getting a master’s degree in special education prepares candidates for the realities of teaching special education. Not only do special education teachers provide important learning opportunities for exceptional children they also become advocates for their students. Special education teachers must understand different types of disabilities and special education laws, and they must be willing and able to collaborate with a variety of people to facilitate a safe and appropriate education for special needs students.

Learn more about the A-State MSE for Special Education – Instructional Specialist K-12 online program.



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