Job Profile: Early Childhood Special Educator

An early childhood special educator works with children who have a variety of developmental delays. These educators work as a team with speech therapists as well as occupational therapists, physical therapists and other professionals to help a child learn in the most effective way. An early childhood special educator may teach students who have hearing or vision challenges that make it difficult for them to be in a regular classroom. Some students who are taught by an early childhood special educator may have physical or intellectual disabilities that need to be addressed. This type of educator adjusts his or her teaching methods and lessons to suit the unique needs of each student. An early childhood special educator works with children who are in preschool and may even work with children as young as two years old. This professional educator plays a critical role in early intervention education for these children.

Salary Information

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual salary for a special education teacher working in a preschool was $55,990 as of May 2013. Of course, an educator’s experience and training affect the annual salary of an individual in this profession.

Beginning Salary

A person who is just out of school and starting in this career may earn an annual salary of approximately $32,120. As a professional gains experience and additional training as well as positive reviews from supervisors, his or her salary will likely increase.

Key Responsibilities

An early childhood special educator is responsible for creating an individual education plan for a child with developmental delays. This plan addresses the specific learning challenges of a child and incorporates the advice of other professionals who are working with the student. Most importantly, an early childhood special educator sets educational goals for a child based on his or her current skill levels. The individual lessons created by this teacher fall in line with each child’s educational plan.

Necessary Skills

When it comes to teaching methods, a person working as an early childhood special educator must be flexible. Because each child learns differently, a teacher must incorporate adjustments in a lesson to make it more understandable. In addition, a professional in this line of work must be encouraging. Oftentimes, children in an early childhood special education class make progress in a very slow, gradual way. An talented teacher praises a child for both small and large victories. Persistence is another necessary skill for this professional. Sometimes a lesson needs to be repeated numerous times before a student can absorb it.

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Degree and Education Requirements

A bachelor’s degree in early childhood special education is a requirement for someone in this line of work. A teacher must also have a license to teach given by the state. Some schools require a teacher to earn a master’s degree in early childhood special education within a certain number of years. A person who’s studying to become an early childhood special educator must also participate in student teaching to get experience in the classroom. A professional who has a master’s degree in early childhood special education will earn more money than someone with a bachelor’s degree.

The Pros and Cons of This Profession

One of the pros of being an early childhood special educator is the personal satisfaction of seeing the progress of a developmentally delayed student. A teacher knows that he or she had a hand in helping the child to garner more skills and knowledge. Another pro is the influence a teacher has on his or her students. The positive attitude and encouragement of a teacher can help a child to look forward to attending school each day. Alternatively, one of the cons of this job is that a teacher can become frustrated at what may appear to be the lack of progress of a student. Special education students learn in a slower way and this may discourage a teacher who wants to see immediate progress. Also, the starting pay for an early childhood special educator is usually low. A teacher must be dedicated to the work to persist in this field.

Getting Started

Someone who wants to become an early childhood special educator can start by reading about the specific needs of children who attend these classes. This will give the person a little background on the types of students he or she will be teaching. Another idea for a person interested in this profession is to volunteer in a special needs class. This allows a person to see what the students do on a typical day and observe the teacher as he or she gives lessons. Also, it gives an individual the opportunity to get to know some of the students and find out what they are like. Talking to the teacher of the class is also a good way to get some personal input on this career. The teacher can share the ups and downs of being an early childhood educator as well as why he or she chose the profession.

Growth of This Career

The field of early childhood special education is growing which means there is a need for more teachers who are qualified and dedicated to helping children. A person who starts out as a teacher in a special education class for preschool children may move up to a position where he or she is helping to train new teachers. Early childhood special education classes are found in public as well as private schools. Also, community schools have classes for students with developmental delays. Consequently, a qualified teacher has a lot of options when it comes to work environment. Along with those types of schools, early childhood special educators can find work teaching these children in after school programs and summer reading programs sponsored by various organizations. These specialized teachers are needed wherever there are students who are better served when they receive individual attention from an instructor.

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Finally, a person who aspires to be an early childhood special educator has the chance to work with students at a very critical time in their lives. All of the lessons these young students learn serve as a solid foundation to build on as they progress through their school years.