Working with special needs children can be one of the most meaningful and rewarding career choices you can make. Special needs children require a completely unique, flexible approach to other children, and it can be a great career choice for you if you feel you can give them what they need. However, there are lots of things to do know about special needs children before you make your mind up about this career choice.

Read on to learn everything you need to know!

Knowing What The Term Special Needs Covers

Special needs is a very broad term covering plenty of different things. You may be working with children whose issues might include:

  • Behavioural problems
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Learning difficulties
  • Autism
  • Speech defects
  • Physical care needs
  • Blindness
  • And more

As special needs is so broad, your duties will vary depending on what role you take on. You might find yourself taking a blind person shopping in an unfamiliar place, helping a child out of a wheelchair and into a swimming pool, or helping with music therapy, for instance.


Roles You Can Take On

Now you know what special needs covers, you need to think about the sort of roles you can take on. Getting a job as a teacher in a special needs school is one of the most popular options for those who want to work with special needs children. This job can be very emotionally satisfying as you are making a direct and measurable difference in the lives of special needs children. Providing you can fulfil a child’s needs and suit their learning style, they can thrive in an academic setting and it is wonderful to watch.

It’s important to note that each child is completely different and a variety of stimuli and teaching styles will have to be used. Traditional styles of teaching do not work for those with special needs. It’s very challenging, but when you see that a child has grasped what you’ve been trying to teach them, there’s no feeling like it!

Another option for you is a role of a counselor at a camp. There are lots of summer camps that are there for children with physical, emotional, and mental disabilities.

It’s Hard Work

It goes without saying that working with special needs children is hard work. It doesn’t matter how great you think you are at managing stress, you’re likely going to feel overwhelmed and frustrated at times. Many children will require more attention to ensure they are making progress, and you’ll always be on edge because of meltdowns that can happen for seemingly no reason to an outsider looking in. You may end up spreading yourself too thin to ensure everybody is getting the attention they deserve. It’s important you are able to stay calm and keep things under control/  

Not only will you be helping individuals directly, but you’ll often become a type of ‘ambassador’ who will enable others to better understand the difficulties faced by people with special needs.

You’ll Learn A Lot About Yourself

Not only are you going to learn a lot about children with special needs; you’re going to learn a lot about yourself, too. You’re going to become more aware of what you’re capable and your abilities to help these children.

Many people think that those who work with special needs children must have super powers. However, providing you have the commitment and desire to help them, along with compassion and empathy, you don’t really need any special skills. That being said, you need to make sure you have the personality required for the job. You need to be patient, understanding, compassionate, determined, committed, and so much more. That goes for just about any role you’re looking at going for in a special needs role.

If you’re wondering how you can get your foot in the door, any employer will be impressed if you have taken on voluntary work in this sector. It indicates that this is something you are truly interested in and want to help with.

The gratitude and love you can receive back from both parents and children when you’re working closely with them will make everything worth it. Many people who work with special needs children often find that their outlook on life changes.

Paperwork Is Crucial

Paperwork can be a nightmare, so if you don’t feel this is something you want to take on, a role with special needs children may not be for you after all. You may be grading assignments and tracking scores, and you’ll be spending a considerable amount of time filling in this paperwork.

It can be very tough to find a balance between your work and private life, especially when you have homework like this to do. You should expect to be working late nights and weekends as your time with special needs children will be spent ensuring everything is properly organized and that everybody is happy, getting the support they need.  

Each Child Requires Interaction Differently

Each child will require interaction differently, even if they have the same condition. For example, you may need to make eye contact with certain children a lot, while others won’t want you to look at them at all. You may need to touch one another’s faces when making an introduction to another child, and others won’t like it if you ask questions as they hate answering them.  Non verbal children will need to be approached differently than those with ADHD, for instance.

You absolutely must be able to remain flexible in style and keep your expectations realistic. Working closely with parents is often important, and in some cases you may need to include them in certain activities and tasks if a child is anxious before slowly phasing them out.  

Observe Behaviour And What That Is Communicating To You

It’s important that you are able to carefully observe the behaviour of children. They may be unable to tell you that they are uncomfortable, and instead be communicating this to you in different ways. Having a keen eye and always being alert is essential when you’re in an environment like this.  


Learn How To Use Viral, Auditory, Or Tactile Clues

The right cues can make all the difference in an environment with special needs children. You may find that singing instructions engages them more than speaking. You may need to use clapping, snapping, or whistling cues. Grabbing or pushing a child to get their attention or to attempt to direct them can confuse them without redirecting their attention, and this can be dangerous if they have poor balance and other problems.

Create A Plan And A Back Up Plan

When working with special needs children, having a plan A, B, and even a plan C is important. They need space to calm down and move freely if things don’t go to plan. It’s important you focus on what each child can do instead of what they can’t contribute.  It may also be required of you to have certifications from places like the nationalcprfoundation.com, just in case things really don’t go to plan. Having a knowledge of first aid is very important.

Having Fun Is A Must

Positive experiences will always lead to better results, so try to make the environment as fun and engaging as possible, whatever your role may be.

Keep A Positive Attitude

Negative attitude and assumptions will leave you unable to interact with many children with special needs. Instead, a positive outlook and attitude will ensure you and the children are much happier. Your perspective on a situation can make all the difference.  

Remember Why You’re Doing It

Above all else, you need to remember why you’ve chosen a role with special needs children. There’s really no better feeling than helping a special needs child learn or accomplish something and watch their confidence skyrocket – you can see it on their face, and it’s amazing. Focus on rewarding moments like this and it can make all of the hard times, failed plans, and paperwork worth it. Special needs children need dedicated, committed, empathetic, caring individuals to help them, and you could be one of them.

In Conclusion – Is Working With Special Needs Children For You?

There are both ups and downs to working with special needs children, and a lot of the time it’ll feel like an uphill battle. The stress and paperwork that come with the job can make the happiest and most relaxed of people get stressed out, but there are so many things that make a career with special needs children meaningful and rewarding.

It’s so important that those who choose to work with special needs children are committed to their role – putting half of your heart into it just won’t do. With the right attitude and commitment, you will love working in this demanding and rewarding environment.

Do you think working with special needs children is for you after reading this? Leave your thoughts and any experiences of your own below.

Thanks for reading!

Aggie Aviso