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Working with Children with Disabilities

What you should know about working with children with disabilities When considering any career path, it helps to have a behind-the-scenes look at the road ahead. Consider this expert insight your test drive to know if you have what it takes to work with special needs students. It will be stressful Stress is unavoidable in most teaching jobs but particularly so when teaching children with disabilities—no matter how brilliant you are as a teacher. Students with disabilities often require more attention than to ensure they’re making progress, so teachers are vulnerable to being spread too thin. Also a large source of stress is the potential for a student to have a “meltdown.” Emotionally disturbed students sometimes lash out at the teacher and other students. it’s important for special education teachers and administrators to make sure there’s enough coverage for each student in their class to help prevent dangerous situations. In addition to having enough help on hand, you need to be able to remain calm to keep things from getting out of control. Many children with autism express their wants by screaming, parents, teachers and other adults must stay calm and always in control to make the children feel safe and cared for. 2. You’ll wear multiple hats A special education specialist is more than a special education teacher, they are community advocates and liaisons for services that will make that child successful in life, not just in the classroom. Your job title might read “special education specialist or teacher,” but there are plenty of unofficial duties that come with the job. Not only are you a teacher, but you’ll become an advocate, a coordinator and a counselor. Counseling and communicating with the parents of children with disabilities is an enormous part of the job. Parents, unlike special education specialists, have no specialized training and may ask for advice. I counsel parents a lot, I sit with them and guide them through the process of how to talk and work with their children—May parents that I advise need both emotional support and information on how they can help their children at home.

3. Paperwork isn’t optional Grading assignments and tracking scores is something that goes hand in hand with teaching. When it comes to working as a special education specialist, it’s important to know that you will most likely have more paperwork than teachers of traditional students. Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) for students with disabilities mean you will likely spend a considerable amount of time filling out paperwork that measures student progress. The most challenging part of my time as a psychologist and special education specialist is finding a balance between my work and my family life especially with having to do reports and IEPs. I work many late nights and weekend on IEPs because I need to give the parents a guideline on what the goals for their child needs to be. Also the schools that I work with need to the IEPs to help the student. While these individualized plans do require a lot of additional work, it’s important to remember their purpose. Children with disabilities can’t be expected to learn and progress at a regular pace; these plans help set and track learning goals and objectives that are appropriate for each student’s specific needs. 4. The challenge Part of the challenge of being a special education specialist is managing the wide variety of students and their capabilities. For instance, a child who is nonverbal needs an entirely different approach to education than a student with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). This requires teachers to be flexible in their teaching styles while keeping realistic the expectations they have for students.

Many people speculate that students in special education classes or in special rehabilitation (Special Education) centers just have emotional or behavioral problems and write off their potential or ability to learn. These students work as hard as they are able to do, however they will still protect themselves from pain. In many cases this can look like the students is unwilling to work or a behavioral problem. 5. Having fun is important The emotional factor of learning for a student with disabilities is very important to address, you will find you accomplish a lot more when you understand that education needs to be a good experience for the child.

Boredom in lessons saps the energy out of a class and can discourage student learning. It’s important for teachers to make their lessons fun and even funny —besides, how many jobs really requests you to be a bit silly or goofy? I myself, play and laugh a lot with my clients. 6. It can be an uphill battle It takes skill and a lot of patience to explain a concept to a child—whether they have an intellectual challenge or not! Both students and teachers will have to deal with the frustration of not grasping a concept, but it is important to embrace the challenge. Someth

ing to keep in mind is that kids are trying to do their best,. As much as you may find yourself impatient and

creating labels like ‘He’s lazy’ or ‘She’s impossible,’ you need to continue to look at yourself a

s the key problem solver. 7. It will be all worth it There is nothing more satisfying than watching a child learn something new and the way it changes their self-esteem and confidence. Never let the frustration and stress that comes with being a special education specialist fool you into thinking it’s all bad—there are plenty of rewarding moments.

Dr. Kawthar Hameed Abdullah is an educational psychologist and special educational specialist. She holds a Ed.D in both educational psychology and special education. She has over 25 years experience working with children with different educational, intellectual and emotional challenges.


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