An Education Professional is one who works to develop the academic, behavioral and social needs of a child or student especially one with disabilities. As the term ‘special education’ denotes, these professionals are trained and skilled to help students achieve more confidence, overcome learning disabilities, learn appropriate behavioral skills to interact with the community; in short, they use their skills to administer activities that build on a child’s life skills.
This kind of Profession is an extremely interesting career choice but it calls for a great deal of confidence, commitment and focus to handle people who are differently abled from others and focus all attention in helping them achieve their goals. The chance to positively impact a child’s life is one of the key driving and motivating factors for professionals to enter this field.
Orienting towards a career in special education, a person has to be able to answer the following questions honestly and sincerely.
1. Am I interested in helping others, especially less privileged young children?
2. Can I handle and care for children and students who have behavioral problems and who require a completely different learning pattern?
3. Do I want to make a difference in a child’s life?
4. Can I work with a team of professionals, some more qualified than I am to reach common goals?
If the answers to these questions come out in a positive manner, then it is safe to assume that a career in special education is just what is needed.
Let’s take a look at the responsibilities of a professional, both short-term and long-term.
In the short-term, a teacher needs to focus solely on the academic and developmental needs of the child. A professional has to help learning in a disable child by understanding behavioral techniques and using them in conjunction with academic educational modules. He or she is also responsible for ensuring that at assessment time, the needs of such children are met completely.
Taking a look at the long-term, it is essential for special educational professionals to work with general education teachers to formulate individualized learning tasks, develop problem solving strategies and techniques, and help the children integrate into groups with other students. They should also join hands with professionals and other qualified staff and family of the child in question to fulfill the requirements of their profession. Here, the creation of an IEP (Individualized Education Program) helps identify each child’s needs and customize learning effectively to overcome all the problems and ensure effective and wholesome implementation. The IEP targets an individual’s needs and growth areas and helps identify goals that target daily activities and provide feedback on progress in key areas and setbacks if any. This helps set specialized and reasonable goals to achieve and works as a task outliner for teachers, professional and the family to work in co-ordination with the student’s needs.
Types of disabilities
One of the key obstacles that a professional faces is the type of disability they can encounter. Disabilities can range from mild such as learning disability to very severe such as autism or retardation. Hence, the qualifications for professionals to achieve can include:
• Speech impairment
• Hearing disability
• Emotional disturbances
• Brain trauma
• Orthopedic impairments
• Learning disabilities, etc.
In addition to special qualifications that are a must for a professional, there are some intrinsic qualities that they should exhibit.
• Recognizing the symptoms and needs of special needs children
• Ability to work with a team to achieve goals
• Strong communication and language skills
• Ability to motivate the individual and the team
• Multi-tasking capabilities
• Wide knowledge on current educational modules based on researched studies and experiments
• Interest to know more about the latest medical evaluations and trends that are relevant to special education needs
In the United States, teachers must possess the relevant license before seeking employment; requirements for qualifying vary from state to state. However, the severe shortage of skilled professionals has prompted higher education institutions to offer special education degrees at Bachelors, Masters’ and Doctoral levels. After some years and gaining experience, some professionals move on to supervisory or administrative positions and can be quite influential in formulating policies; they are also much sought after by incoming professionals who require mentoring. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the future job market for professionals looks bright with several changes on the horizon.