As of 2013, the number of children with disabilities or special needs between 5-15 years old is estimated to be about 8.1%, or about 36,000 state-wide. The CDC defines a disability as “any condition of the body or mind that makes it more difficult for a person to do certain activities and interact with the world around them”.
Those with special needs often struggle to complete everyday tasks. When you decide to work with special needs children or adults, you will provide a valuable service that helps meet essential needs. If you’re looking to help fulfill these needs, we’re here to help you learn what qualifications you need to work with special needs and start on the right path.
Understanding Different Disabilities
The most important thing to understand when you’re looking to work with children with special needs is the types of disabilities you may encounter. This will help you figure out where your skills are valuable, how you can work most successfully with them, and what specific qualifications you may need. There are many disabilities and special needs and some may require more or different qualifications from others.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act lays out thirteen to fourteen categories of disabilities recognized by the public education system.
Specific Learning Disability (SLD)
SLD is a category that covers things like dyslexia or dyscalculia, or anything that impairs a child’s ability to do things like reading, writing, speaking, or doing math.
Other Health Impairment
Other health impairment is a term that often includes ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), asthma, diabetes, or epilepsy, among other things.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
ASD is a common condition among students with special needs. It is a developmental disability that affects social development and communication skills.
Emotional disturbance is a broad term that includes things like depression, anxiety, or other emotional responses that hinder their ability to perform academically.
A speech or language impairment typically includes things like stuttering, a lisp, or other communication disorders.
A child that is visually impaired will have issues with vision that affects their academic performance, even with corrections like glasses or other aids.
Hearing Impairment or Blindness
Hearing impairment includes a slight loss in hearing that is temporary or permanent hearing. Deafness is a permanent, complete loss of hearing.
Some individuals may have deaf-blindness.
An orthopedic impairment relates to muscles, bones, etc. — anything physical that’s caused by things like diseases, amputations, or genetic causes.
Intellectual disabilities are lessened cognitive capabilities due to causes that happen during the child’s developmental periods.
Traumatic Brain Injury
Traumatic brain injuries affect things like communication, cognition, motor abilities, and physical or mental-social functions.
Multiple disabilities is a broad category that covers any children that fall into more than one of these categories and require more extensive care than any one special needs provider may provide.
How Can I Work With Children With Special Needs?
As there are many disabilities among children with special needs, there are an equally wide number of jobs available for compassionate individuals looking to work with them.
Special Education Teacher
A Special Education Teacher is a professional that works with students with special needs. Generally, they may aid general education teachers but work with students with special needs in a one-on-one setting in a specialized environment. Additionally, they may work in a public or private school. States require varied education requirements, but the usual expectations are:
- A bachelor's or master’s degree in special education
- Student-teaching experience in special education environments
- Specific testing
- A teaching license
Social workers make a career working with both children and adults in many situations. They may provide aid for the child with special needs but also support for the family in various ways, like connecting to schools, therapists, or other counselors that best suit the child’s needs.
A social worker usually needs a bachelor’s degree at minimum, but may require additional degrees or licenses depending on the state.
A speech-language pathologist is an excellent career path for people who want to aid children with communication or intellectual disabilities. They can work in hospitals, private establishments, or public schools.
A master’s degree is typically needed, and in some cases, a special license.
A developmental psychologist will usually be needed to assess children for disabilities and advise on the child’s needs. They usually work in schools or medical clinics.
A master’s degree or doctorate is standard, as well as a license.
Rehabilitation therapists work with a wide range of disabilities, and they help children and families find coping mechanisms and gain independence. In some cases, they may help kids develop communication skills.
A relevant master’s degree, professional certification, and state certification are needed.
There are many other fields and positions for someone looking to work with children with disabilities, from art therapy to physical therapy to behavior analysis, so if you feel your skills and passion may lay elsewhere, keep looking!
What Else Do I Need to Work With Children With Special Needs?
Some professions require more than a degree or certification. When looking into a career in special needs, a few more qualifications you need include:
Kindness and Compassion
Children, in general, require a lot of love and empathy to become their best selves, and this is especially true of children with special needs. These children often deal with many hardships, even beyond their disabilities, so a warm and open heart is crucial. They have to cross far more hurdles than other children, so this can be disheartening for them. These experiences will likely affect their self-esteem, so someone who is supportive and uplifting is a great fit for them.
Patience and Dedication
Children learn at different paces, and that is especially true of those with learning disabilities. They usually require a lot of extra help and emotional support. They need someone patient enough to water them until they can fully grow, no matter how long it takes or what that growth looks like.
Passion and Guidance
Working with special needs children is not always easy, and the job may become overwhelming. People willing to dedicate themselves to helping nurture these children must also seek help themselves. It’s a constant learning process, and learning new strategies is important to be as effective as possible.
Start a Rewarding New Career Today
Working with special needs children can be a life-changing experience. Now that you know the qualifications you need to work with special needs, contact Integrity, Inc, to start a wonderfully rewarding new career!
We’re always looking to help people on the right path. If you are interested in more ways to enter the special-needs field, contact us for more information.