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Careers Dealing With Children With Special Needs

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Helping children who have special needs can be a rewarding and fulfilling way to earn a living while making a difference in the lives of your clients. According to Family Voices, an estimated 10.2 million children in the United States have special needs in the areas of physical, emotional and emotional health. Following a path in special education, psychology or therapeutic services allows you to help children with special needs.

Specialize in Special Education

Pursuing a career in special education can be a gratifying way to help children with special needs. Special education teachers use adaptive methods and help match the needs of their students to the learning material. Becoming a special education teacher, special education teacher's assistant or early intervention specialist are some of the possibilities in the area of special education, but it's also possible to become a specialist in a specific area, such as autism spectrum disorders or learning disabilities. Most careers in special education require at least a bachelor's degree, but some also require a master's degree and, in some cases, state licensure. And some areas, such early intervention, may require additional specialized training and certification.

Pursue Paths in Psychology

When children are first suspected of having a disability or disorder, parents may consult their pediatricians for assistance. In many cases, the pediatrician will refer the child to a child psychologist for testing and, if necessary, a diagnosis. To become a child psychologist, you need to earn a doctorate in psychology and complete postdoctoral training in child psychology. But psychologists are only one component of the team of professionals who offer specialized psychological services to children with special needs. Social workers and school counselors also help children overcome behavioral problems and adapt to life with their special needs. These professionals usually must have a master's degree and, in most cases, a license in their respective fields.

Think about Therapeutic Services

Many allied health professionals provide a variety of therapeutic services to children with special needs. Depending on their specific symptoms, children with special needs might receive services like occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, physical therapy, art therapy or music therapy. Different therapeutic services can help children in the areas of emotional and verbal expression, behavioral problems or physical limitations. Most states require professionals who offer therapeutic services to have a master's degree in their respective fields and, in many cases, state certification or licensure. But physical therapists usually need to have a doctoral degree, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Consider Other Possible Career Paths

A wide range of additional career paths may allow you to help children with special needs in a variety of ways. Some possibilities include becoming a school nurse, a therapeutic recreation specialist, an educational audiologist, a special education administrator or an educational diagnostician. Aside from becoming a school nurse, which requires candidates to have at least an associate degree and be a registered nurse, many of these additional career paths require a master's degree or higher.


Ashley Miller is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, certified Reiki practitioner, yoga enthusiast and aromatherapist. She has also worked as an employee assistance program counselor and a substance-abuse professional. Miller holds a Master of Social Work and has extensive training in mental health diagnosis, as well as child and adolescent psychotherapy. She also has a bachelor's degree in music.

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