Special education, also called special needs education, is the education of children who are different on a social, mental, or physical plane from the average student. What this means is that they require modifications of usual school practices in order for them to follow the class and keep up with other students. Special education serves children who have behavioral, cognitive, or emotional impairments or with hearing, vision, speech, learning, or intellectual disabilities. It can also include gifted children with advanced academic abilities; as well as children with neurological or orthopedic impairments.
According to UNICEF, almost ninety-three million children across the globe have been diagnosed with some kind of disability. Over half of them do not attend school at all, which can seriously affect their everyday life in the future. Teachers have a significant role to play in the education of such children, but this raises a practical question - can any teacher be a special education teacher?
The Everyday Activities of a Special Education Teacher
Before we look into who can become a teacher specializing in special education, here are some of the activities that such teachers have to conduct on a daily basis.
- Teaching students and making room for both academic as well as non-academic activities
- Observing the special requirements of each student and making study plans as per their needs
- Administering tests to help determine the developmental levels, needs, or potential of each student
- Paying attention to not only the physical performance of the students but also their psychological performance as well
- Assessing the individual improvements of each student and implementing new teaching methods for where they are falling short
- Facilitating both indoor as well as outdoor activities for students and encouraging a more creative mode of learning so that all students are included
- Meeting with parents to discuss the performance of each student and taking appropriate steps based on the subsequent discussions
- Supervising and Mentoring other teachers working in the school with students with special needs
- Keeping a keen eye on the hygiene of students and the cleanliness of their surroundings
How To Become a Special Needs Teacher
So, to answer the previous question - no, not everyone can become a special educator. A mere Bachelor's Degree in Education will not equip teachers with the adequate knowledge to handle students with special needs. So here is a guide regarding how to become a special needs teacher.
Step 1 - Higher Secondary Education
At this stage, it does not really matter what kind of education you wish to pursue - you can take any stream at the +2 level. The basic idea here is that you need to be qualified for the next stage of education. That being said, it is a good idea to consider studying psychology at this level as it can help you in the future if you pursue this going forward.
Step 2 - Get a Bachelor’s Degree
At this juncture, you can either do a diploma in special education, following which you can only teach special education classes, or you can pursue a degree in aby discipline which will act as a stepping stone for you to do a bachelor’s degree in special education. The diploma courses that are generally a one year program can be pursued after +2.
Step 3 - Take a B.Ed in Special Education
This is what truly qualifies you to be a special education teacher. You can take B.Ed (Special Education) specialising in multiple disabilities or in just a few specific areas. This is another three year course which can be taken up after graduation in any discipline, or after a diploma in special education training after +2.
Step 4 - Do a Masters
For specialising in a particular disability, you can take up M.Ed (Special Education), a two year course that can be taken up after a B.Ed in that subject. It can also be pursued after taking a general B.Ed degree along with a diploma in special education from an institute that is recognised by the Rehabilitation Council of India.
Recommended Read - Special Education Courses - A Guide
Being a teacher helping students with special needs can be quite the rewarding experiene if it is something that you are looking forward to do. A teacher is more just an educator, especially when dealing with such students, so it is their moral obligation to make sure that they put in their best to not just use this as a means of making money but a genuine attempt at being a positive influence on students.