What does it mean to be a special needs educator?

What does it mean to be a special needs educator?

Being an educator is incredibly meaningful but comes with many challenges. The preparation needed to conduct the lesson, the nerve-wracking encounter with the parents to inform of their child’ progress and the look of joy or sadness after receiving their exam results. These are part of the learning process a typical educator must go through.

On the other hand, a special needs educator requires more intensive and detailed preparation than mainstream educators. Being a special needs educator is not only about different methods of teaching, but the high pace and intensity of mental strength and emotions needed to connect with the student who might have very particular needs. Here are the 3 key differences:

  • Planning standard lesson for all vs Individual Educational Plan lesson
    In a mainstream school, the educator will typically adopt the same teaching pedagogy and lesson plan for the class. However for a special needs educator, the planning will be more individual, particularly in classes where the student have different complex and emotional needs to cater to. Educators are required to develop an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) for the student. This will be used as a ‘map’ that lays out the program of special education instruction and supports for the child to progress and succeed in the curriculum.
  • Working alone vs working with a team
    One of the main differences of working in a special needs school is the emphasis of teamwork, especially teaming with the parents and therapists. Special needs educator will work as part of a team with many other staff members. The educator will coordinate with all IEP team members, including speech therapists, occupational therapists, and other specialists depending on diversity of the disabilities involved in the classroom. For example, the educator and other therapists may collaborate to create a behaviour plan designed to reduce the child’s acting-out behaviours and to focus their energy on learning. This will be shared with the parents as to help with their child’s development and coping mechanism.
  • Giving just enough vs giving more than required
    Teaching a class of special needs is challenging as it is. The need to forge stronger bonds with the student and connecting with them on multiple level are important to the student’s learning environment being positive and conducive. This is achieved by having good character and strong quality traits. Imagine having to attend to each students’ needs during the day and then parents calling to seek your advice and update on their child’s progress after lesson. Being calm, having high organizational skills, enthusiasm and dedication is a must in this sector.

While students in general need plenty of care and attention from their teachers, children with special needs are most benefited by educators whose personality traits enhance their learning process. Ensuring appropriate supports and interventions are made available to the student in order to improve their academic and intellectual growth, as well as being able to function in a social, emotional and behavioural capacities. Special needs educator face challenges, but at the same time, find great reward and satisfaction in their careers and nothing beats seeing the difference made in the lives of their students with special educational needs.

Join us at College of Allied Educators to see how you can develop an understanding of the different types of exceptional children, their needs, and the different special needs programmes and specialties that are available to you, for them.


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