As a special education teacher, you will be working with one of seven different categories of special students.
- Students with learning disabilities
- Physically handicapped students
- Students with diagnosed behavior problems
- Students with communication problems
- Students with visual problems
- Severely handicapped students, and
- Gifted students
In addition to regular teacher training, a special education teacher must have training in special education. This includes a teaching component in which you spend time in a school under the supervision and guidance of a teacher certified to work with children with special needs. After you receive your training, you must take and pass the teacher certification test for working in this field. Since several states have their own teaching certification tests, you need to contact the licensing board of that state to find out exactly what test you must take. The Praxis tests are accepted in most of the states in the country.
Once you receive your initial teaching certificate as a special education teacher, you must take a further 150 hours of courses or a combination of courses and professional development in order to renew the certificate. Since the initial certificate is for a five-year period, you do have five years in which to complete these requirements. This leads to a professional teaching certificate; so before you start taking courses, check to see what the requirements for this certificate are for the state where you teach.
Some of the courses you will take as part of your training as a special education teacher how to design the curriculum to meet the needs of the students. Most of the students in the severe category cannot achieve the regular curriculum so the lessons have to be changed so that the students do achieve the outcomes, but the work they so is a lot different from that of the regular students. In some cases, you may have to take special training on how to defend yourself when dealing with these students so that you don’t get hurt or hurt the students in some way. This may seem extreme but it is a fact of teaching special education because there are a small number of special needs students who become very aggressive.
Learning all the different types of learning disabilities students can have is one part of training to become a special education teacher. As a teacher, you will also be part of a team within the school and school district. Special education students are on special programs and this means being able to write the behavioral objectives that they must try to achieve in a specific period of time. These are reviewed several times a year in a meeting with the parents, the school administration and other teachers in the school that are involved with the student(s) you teach. Excellent communication skills are essential for this position as you will need to communicate with parents on a regular basis.