Back to Classroom Assistants details

Special Education - Overview


Special education programs prepare people to teach students who have special needs that impact their ability to learn. Students learn to identify and teach students with emotional disturbances or developmental challenges. They also learn to work with students who have physical challenges such as blindness.

Imagine if you had a problem such as bad eyesight, and it was affecting your schoolwork. Maybe you couldn't see the chalkboard where your teacher wrote test questions and homework assignments. What if your teacher noticed your poor grades and, without bothering to figure out the cause of the decline, moved you down a grade level? What if this trend continued to happen until you ended up in a first grade class when you should have been in the sixth grade with a pair of glasses?

This situation probably seems like an exaggeration, if not completely unlikely. But not too long ago, students who noticeably struggled in "regular" classrooms were often lumped together in a "remedial" class without any regard to their individual needs.

Thankfully, our understanding of exceptional students has changed the educational field. There is now a whole area of education devoted to students with special needs: special education.

Exceptional students fit into many different age groups and have a wide variety of special needs. There are students with physical disabilities such as deafness or blindness. There are also students with mental and emotional disabilities. Some students may have autism or have particular speech and language impairments. And then there are students with a combination of disabilities. People study these needs in order to better teach students with them.

As a student in special education programs, you learn about many aspects of the field. You learn about the different kind of barriers that exceptional students face when trying to learn. You study government laws and policies that affect these students. And you learn to identify the special needs of students and then plan an individualized course of study for each one.

If you care deeply for students as individuals, love to teach, and possess a lot of patience and perspective, special education may be the program for you.

Many schools offer accredited special education programs where you can earn a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree. In general, a bachelor's degree takes four to five years of full-time study after high school. A master's degree usually takes five to seven years, and a doctoral degree ten to eleven.

There are a few accelerated programs where you can get both a bachelor's and a master's degree in about five years.

Source: Illinois Career Information System (CIS) brought to you by Illinois Department of Employment Security.
Back to Classroom Assistants details