Teaching is a noble profession but a special educator demands highest respect and commitment at the same time. It has only been over the last few years that special needs education has been gaining momentum in India with the government’s increased focus on programmes like Accessible India. Census 2001 has revealed that over 21 million people in India are living with one or the other kind of disability and this is equivalent to 2.1% of the entire population. For a population of this size, India needs about 15 lakh special educators to address their needs. A number of schools and institutions work with special children to make them self-reliant for an inclusive society. These children cannot cope with the regular school curriculum, at least not without the intervention of a special educator.
A special educator studies the strengths and limitations of a special child and then designs a unique curriculum for each of them. Based on the individual disability of the children, the teachers teach them sign language, motor skills or likewise using play methods and audio visual materials.
So what are the 5 most important attributes that an aspiring special educator must possess?
Formal education: First and the foremost an individual requires a degree, diploma or a certificate in special education. There are a lot of universities and institutions that are providing formal education in special education with specialisations in various disabilities. However, it has to be recognised by the Rehabilitation Council of India. Possessing the right skill is of utmost importance if one wants to work with special children. With increased awareness and government support more and more institutes, both national and international, are raising demands for special educators.
Getting equipped with the right skill: That can open up an array of opportunities for an aspiring teacher. If all policy changes are well-implemented, all regular schools would also need teachers with special needs. Not just schools, formal training can help people open clinics and these people are also called of home visits.
Commitment and patience: Simply obtaining a degree in special education won’t do the job. Lack of commitment and patience won’t help the person. Handling special children is not an easy job and the person must be ready to take this profession as a challenge. Dealing with these children requires 100% effort and one can expect less than 10% result. This could frustrate some people but commitment and passion is the virtue to stay motivated in this profession. You should love children and be very patient while handling them and take their problems/behavioural disorders in your stride.
Good coping skills and stress management: A special educator has to don many hats; s/he has to be a therapist, friend, and teacher, counsellor to students and at times a counsellor to parents. This requires a great deal of multi-tasking. It is a demanding profession and not getting the desired results often leads to a lot of stress. Stress management is one thing that an aspiring special education needs to be skilled at to have a rewarding career.
Strong value system: Getting credits and financial rewards is not the main aim of a special educator. Many times it would seem to be totally without rewards, especially in India. But if you are someone who gives a lot of importance to job satisfaction, then this profession is just right for you. You get a lot of satisfaction by helping such children and making then self-dependent. With each successful step a child takes, the teacher feels immense happiness and contentment and this is his or her biggest reward.
Right knowledge and information: An aspiring special educator should be equipped with correct and updated knowledge about his/her work so that s/he can empower parents from time to time, which is very important for a child’s development and training. Use of technology changes everything in every field today and hence a special educator must upgrade one’s own knowledge about assistive devices and technology to help children and parents in their training. In the long run, you have to keep on reminding yourself about the satisfaction you get with these children. Then a salary can just be a bonus for you.
The author is director, Mata Bhagwanti Chadha Niketan (MBCN), an institute for differently abled children.