Special Educator


Career Overview

St Columba's is a school providing inclusive education while understanding that students with benchmark disabilities would more justly be educated in environments which would cater to their severe challenges. Thus, at St Columba's we are working towards integration of all students and the minimising of exclusion. This is particularly so in class. Special educators and "main stream teachers" are expected to works at cooperative teaching.

Special education teachers work with students who have a wide range of learning, mental, emotional, and physical disabilities. They adapt general education lessons and teach various subjects, such as reading, writing, and math, to students with mild and moderate disabilities. They also teach basic skills, such as literacy and communication techniques, to students with severe disabilities.

Important Qualities

Communication skills: Special education teachers discuss student’s needs and performances with general education teachers, parents, and administrators. They also explain difficult concepts in terms that students with learning disabilities can understand.

Critical-thinking skills: Special education teachers assess students’ progress and use that information to adapt lessons to help them learn.

Interpersonal skills: Special education teachers regularly work with general education teachers, school counselors, administrators, and parents to develop Individualized Education Programs. As a result, they need to be able to build positive working relationships.

Patience: Working with students with special needs and different abilities can be difficult. Special education teachers should be patient with each student, as some may need the instruction given aloud, at a slower pace, or in writing.

Resourcefulness: Special education teachers must develop different ways to present information in a manner that meets the needs of their students. They also help general education teachers adapt their lessons to the needs of students with disabilities.


Special education teachers typically do the following:

  • Assess student's skills to determine their needs and to develop teaching plans
  • Adapt lessons to meet the needs of students
  • Develop Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for each student
  • Plan, organize, and assign activities that are specific to each student's abilities
  • Teach and mentor students as a class, in small groups, and one-on-one
  • Implement IEPs, comprehensively analyse student's performance, and track their progress
  • Update IEPs throughout the school year to reflect student's progress and goals
  • Discuss student's progress with parents at monthly PTMs (usually after school/non working sat), teachers, counsellors, and administrators
  • Regular maintenance of appraisal records - feedbacks from parents, teachers, and the student himself
  • Conduct, in pairs, home visits for High Risk cases
  • Supervise and mentor teacher assistants who work with students with disabilities
  • Prepare and help students transition from grade to grade and after graduation
  • Sensitize staff through In house workshops for staff resourcing
  • Sensitize parents through Parental workshops for resourcing and Counselling sessions

Special education teachers work as part of a team that typically includes general education teachers, counsellors, school superintendents, and parents. As a team, they develop individualized educational programs (IEPs) specific to each student's needs. IEPs outline goals and services for each student, such as sessions with the school psychologists, counsellors, and special education teachers. Teachers also meet with parents, school administrators, and counsellors to discuss updates and changes to the IEPs.

Special education teacher's duties vary by the type of setting they work in, student disabilities, and teacher specialty. Some special education teachers work in classrooms or resource centres that only include students with disabilities. In these settings, teachers plan, adapt, and present lessons to meet each student’s needs. They teach students in small groups or on a one-on-one basis.

Students with disabilities may attend classes with general education students, also known as inclusive classrooms. In these settings, special education teachers may spend a portion of the day teaching collaborating together with general education teachers. They help present the information in a manner that students with disabilities can more easily understand. They also assist general education teachers to adapt lessons that will meet the needs of the students with disabilities in their classes. They may have a different examination policy offering support in the form of papers, seating and invigilation.

Special education teachers also work with teacher assistants, psychologists, and social workers, to accommodate requirements of students with disabilities.

Special education teachers work with students who have a wide variety of mental, emotional, physical, and learning disabilities. For example, some work with students who need assistance in subject areas, such as reading and math. Others help students develop study skills, such as using flashcards and text highlighting.

Some special education teachers work with students who have physical and sensory disabilities, such as blindness and deafness, and with students who are wheelchair-bound. They may also work with those who have autism spectrum disorders and emotional disorders, such as anxiety and depression.

Special education teachers work with students from preschool to high school. Some teachers work with students who have severe disabilities until the students are 21 years old.

Special education teachers help students with severe disabilities develop basic life skills, such as how to respond to questions and how to follow directions. Some teach students with moderate disabilities the skills necessary to live independently to find a job, such as managing money and time. For more information about other workers who help individuals with disabilities develop skills necessary to live independently, see the profiles on occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants and aides.

Most special education teachers use computers to keep records of their student's performance, prepare lesson plans, and update IEPs. Some teachers also use various assistive technology aids, such as Braille writers and computer software that helps them communicate with students.

Work Schedules

Special education teachers typically work during school hours. They also use that time to grade papers, update student's records, and prepare lessons. They may meet with parents, students, and other teachers before and after school for remediation classes.