Demanding. Rewarding. Fulfilling. These are some of the words used to describe working with special needs children by those who have or are currently doing the job. As with parenting, it could be said that working with special needs children is the “toughest job you’ll ever love”.
From a heightened sense of accomplishment to a potentially life-altering perception of those less fortunate, there are many positive aspects to this type of work. Is it for everyone? No. But it just may be for you.
Whether it’s teaching the child with special needs in an inclusive classroom or in a separate special education program, teachers who have successfully worked with these students often describe the satisfaction they feel when the material is–sometimes, at long last–understood.
Why is this ultimately more satisfying that teaching in a traditional classroom, to traditional students?
Successes in working with these children are measured in inches, not feet. Even the smallest achievements of a special needs child is cause for celebration; the road to that achievement has likely been longer and rougher than for those without disabilities.
Setbacks, time spent coming up with more creative approaches to the material and even physically violent episodes might litter the road to that “Eureka!” moment when a special needs child grasps the concept being taught.
‘Part of the Job Description’
Yes, special needs children can kick. Or punch. But many teachers feel that this just comes with the territory. “It’s part of our job description,” was how special education director Kami Finger addressed it.
And these episodes can be offset by the knowledge that they’re doing the work that needs to be done for these children. Up to point when they have gotten a child to understand that math problem or that history lesson, they have already put in a lot of time, not just in the classroom but outside of it as well.
spent countless hours coming up with new and original ways to deliver the material
written several lesson plans, possibly one for each special needs child in their classroom
attended special training and special meetings
All this, too: just part of the job description.
The Patience of a Saint?
Does one truly need the “patience of a saint” to work with children with special needs? While it’s true that the job does require patience in abundance, some say that it more needs compassion and understanding and the will to work with those whom the school system–and even life itself–might easily leave behind.
Working with special needs children can make you more aware of their plight in everyday society. It might help you not just at the moment but in many future moments to come. You’re likely to encounter an adult in a wheelchair, or with a personality disorder, at some time in your life. How you approach and interact with that person can be benefited by the fact that you work or worked with special needs children.
You just might come away with more of an appreciation of all people and how they develop, not just your students’ but your own children as well. You might learn patience, yes; and tolerance, and acceptance, and empathy. It doesn’t need to be seen as saintly, just human.
And that’s the payoff for all the hard work. For enduring that aforementioned job description. Working with special needs children can be difficult at the moment you’re doing it. But the dividends it can pay could last the rest of your life.