What Do Special Education Teachers Do?

Special education teachers work with students who have a wide range of learning, mental, emotional, and physical disabilities.

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Special education teachers work with students who have a range of disabilities, from mild to severe. They adapt standard teaching methods to meet the individual needs of their students. Special education teachers also collaborate with other members of the educational team, including general education teachers, support staff, and administrators.

Roles and Responsibilities

Special education teachers work with students who have a wide range of disabilities. They adapt general education lessons and teach various subjects, such as reading, writing, and math, to meet the needs of their students. In addition, special education teachers work with students’ families and other professionals, such as occupational therapists and psychologists, to develop Individualized Education Programs (IEPs).


The primary role of a special education teacher is to provide instruction to students with disabilities. This may include students with physical disabilities, learning disabilities, emotional or behavioral disorders, or other disabilities. Special education teachers may work in classrooms, resource centers, or schools specifically for students with disabilities. They may also work in inclusive classrooms, providing support to students with disabilities who are mainstreamed into regular classrooms.

Special education teachers typically develop Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) for their students. IEPs are developed in collaboration with parents, guardians, and other professionals on the student’s team, and they outline the goals and objectives for the student’s educational program. Special education teachers use a variety of instructional methods and materials to help their students learn and grow. They also provide support to families and other members of the student’s team.


In addition to general teaching duties such as lesson planning, grading, and working with parents, special education teachers are responsible for creating Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for each student.

IEPs are legal documents that detail the specific services and supports a student with an disability will receive. Special education teachers work with a team of professionals to develop IEPs that are designed to help students make progress in school.

Special education teachers also provide direct instruction to students in small groups or one-on-one settings. They often use specialized instructional techniques and materials to help their students learn.


Assessing students with disabilities is a team effort. Teachers, related service providers, and other school personnel all play a role in the assessment process. Assessing students helps teachers identify what students know and are able to do and where they need help. It also provides information that can be used to develop goals and objectives for students’ Individualized Education Programs (IEPs).

There are three types of assessment:

1. Formative assessment: Also called progress monitoring, this type of assessment is ongoing and informal. It is used to track student progress and guide instruction.

2. Summative assessment: This type of assessment is given at the end of a unit or semester. It is used to evaluate student learning and achievement.

3. Diagnostic assessment: This type of assessment is given at the beginning of the year or when a student enters a new class or program. It is used to identify a student’s strengths, weaknesses, and needs.

IEP Development

IEP Development
The development of an IEP is a process that begins with an evaluation of the student’s abilities and needs. This is done by a team of professionals that may include the student’s regular education teacher, a special education teacher, a school psychologist, and/or other specialists. The team will look at the student’s strengths and needs in order to identify what accommodations or modifications might be necessary in order for the student to be successful in school.

Once the team has evaluated the student, they will meet with the student’s parents or guardians to discuss their findings and to develop an IEP. The IEP is a document that outlines the student’s strengths, needs, and goals, as well as the services and supports that will be put in place to help them succeed in school.

The IEP is reviewed and updated on an annual basis, or more often if needed. Special education teachers play a key role in this process, as they are responsible for working with students on their individual goals and ensuring that they are making progress.


Special education teachers are responsible for communicating with parents, students, and other members of the school community to ensure that everyone is on the same page with regards to the student’s education and progress. This includes holding meetings, writing reports, and staying in touch via email, phone, or text.

Special Education Teacher Training and Qualifications

Although the public school system is required by the Individuals with Disabilities Act to provide education for students with disabilities, the reality is that most states do not have enough certified special education teachers to meet this demand. That’s why many people with a passion for teaching pursue special education teacher training.


All states require special education teachers in public schools to be licensed. Although certification requirements vary by state, most states require a bachelor’s degree in special education and a passing score on a state-authorized teacher licensing exam.

In order to sit for the licensing exam, most states require completion of an accredited teacher preparation program that includes student teaching experience. Graduates of these programs typically earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree in special education. A few states allow individuals with a bachelor’s degree in another field and substantial coursework in special education to receive alternative certification.


In order to become a special education teacher, you will need to earn a degree in special education. Alternatively, you could earn a degree in elementary education with a specialization in special education. Many states also require special education teachers to earn a master’s degree in special education within a certain number of years after they begin teaching.


Special education teachers typically need to complete a bachelor’s degree, although some jobs may require a master’s degree. Bachelor’s degree programs generally include courses in regular and special education, child development, classroom management and strategies for working with different types of disabilities.

Prospective special education teachers also must complete a student-teaching internship, during which they work full time under the supervision of a licensed special education teacher.

Special Education Teacher Salary and Job Outlook

Special education teachers work with students who have a variety of disabilities. They adapt general education lessons and teach various subjects, such as reading, writing, and math, to meet the needs of each student. They also work with students’ families and help them to understand the students’ disabilities and how to best support them.


Special education teachers made a median salary of $58,980 in 2018. The best-paid 25 percent made $73,140 that year, while the lowest-paid 25 percent made $47,180.

Job Outlook

The job outlook for special education teachers is good. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment of special education teachers will grow by 8 percent from 2018 to 2028, faster than the average for all occupations. This growth is due, in part, to an increase in the number of children with disabilities.

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