10 Skills Needed in Careers Working with Special Needs Children (2023)

10 Skills Needed in Careers Working with Special Needs Children (1)

Careers working with special needs children are not only meaningful but also in high demand. In fact, special education preschool jobs are expected to grow up to 21 percent through 2022, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. This shows that professionals trained to work with special needs children will be a hot commodity for years to come.

So how can you gain an edge in this promising field? By pairing an early childhood education (ECE) degree with a specialization in special needs, you’ll acquire the skills and experience needed to succeed in this field, according to Dr. Cecelia Westby, academic director of early childhood education at Collegis Education.

“The more tools in your toolbox, the better advocate you can be for children and families,” Westby says.

(Video) Small Group Rotations with Moderate/Severe Special Education Students

To help you decide which tools are worth focusing on, we used real-time job analysis software from Burning-Glass.com to identify the top skills needed for careers working with special needs children. Here’s what we found:

Top 10 skills needed for working with special needs children

“The more tools in your toolbox, the better advocate you can be for children and families."

Below you’ll find the 10 most important skills employers are seeking when hiring for careers working with special needs children. Determine which of these skills you already possess and which you are interested in developing in order to become a desirable candidate in the workforce.

1. First aid

Most professional child care providers must know CPR, though each state has different requirements. The same standards will apply to applicants for positions with children with special needs. First aid training is also an important skill in your personal life, considering 50,000 yearly deaths could be prevented and drowning is the leading cause of accidental death in young children. CPR certification courses are available to anyone online or in a classroom through the American Heart Association.

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2. Case management

Case management is the process of taking care of a client’s health and human service needs, according to the Commission for Case Manager Certification. Identifying children’s problems and working with families will take a liaison familiar with the ups and downs of family life—just like you! Case managers act as a support and resource for families in crisis. Examples of specific duties can include assisting with family, school and transportation problems, evaluating unique needs and working with families to achieve goals.

3. Psychology

Knowledge of psychology can be beneficial to students when applied in the classroom. This skill can help you understand why a child is acting in a certain way. That means when you face a challenging situation in the classroom, you will have the skill to get to the root of the problem and respond appropriately.

You don’t need to earn a master’s or PhD, just be sure to make use of any previous psychology credits you may have. You might also consider supplementing your degree with psychology classes, although many ECE programs have them built into the curriculum. In some states a certain number of psychology classes are required.

4. Child care

Knowing the ins and outs of child care from your own children or from previous work experience will prepare you for working with special needs children. But it’s important to note that tactics for disciplining special needs students are different from other students. You must be able to understand and juggle many different student needs and school requirements. However, certain aspects are no different from your own home: consistency with rules is critical and all children must learn to be accountable for their actions.

(Video) Job Skills Training - Homeschooling special needs students

5. Record keeping

Don’t associate this skill with sitting in an office all day, but maintaining diligent records is a critical ability in these careers. Children with disabilities must be tracked for progress and improvement in development. There are also state reports that must be filed on behalf of each child. If you are already confident about your record keeping abilities, don’t forget to draw attention to those skills when applying for teaching positions. You can highlight a time you assisted a friend in organizing small business records or how well you’ve kept track of family and life events, whether for fun or to help assess and plan for important things like financial needs.

6. Therapy

You don’t need to be a licensed therapist but experience in therapy could help you identify physical or mental handicaps in the children under your care. If caught soon enough by someone knowledgeable, early intervention can have an extremely positive impact. This also benefits siblings of handicapped or gifted students, who can sometimes get lost in the shuffle. Think of yourself as one more link in a chain that supports the entire family of a child with special needs.

7. Autism

One in 68 kids in America is on the autism spectrum and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) occurs in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups, according to the Center for Disease Control. This means no matter where you work, you will inevitably encounter a child affected by ASD sooner or later. Knowing how to interact with an autistic child will show employers you can confidently handle yourself when the time comes in the classroom.

8. Lesson planning

Lesson planning is always a difficult skill to master because a teacher never knows how a classroom of diverse students will respond to a lesson. Designing a plan that is inclusive of learning disorders becomes even more challenging. Lesson planning is just one of the many responsibilities the U.S. Department of Labor lists for special education teachers. Even if you do not have experience with lesson plans, you’re used to coming up with creative activity ideas for your kids. You can draw upon this experience to keep children engaged in the classroom.

(Video) How To Work With Special Needs Kids

9. Mathematics

You’ve probably had to assist your child with a math assignment or two, so you know how difficult but important it is. The U.S. has been behind other countries in math and science for many years, despite the fact that the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) calls early childhood mathematics “a vital foundation” that all children need. Math skills are in high demand for all types of teachers, so it’s a desirable skill to highlight on your resume.

10. Office equipment

There are many technologies you may encounter as a preschool teacher, from email platforms to educational software, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Familiarizing yourself with these devices and programs means that a potential employer will not have to teach them to you. You will be able to hit the ground running at a new workplace.

Prepare yourself for success

Because of the massive demand, a field like special needs is a great choice for someone looking to leap right into a new career. When going back to school, don’t forget to draw on your existing abilities and experiences and apply them to your career working with special needs children. Highlighting these 10 skills can make you even more valuable in the eyes of a potential employer.

Hungry for more information? Visit the Rasmussen University School of Education’s special needs specialization page for details on what you need to do to begin your journey to an education career working with special needs children.

(Video) Doing the Job: Basic Job Skills (interpersonal skills) (30 min)


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What qualities do you need to work with people with disabilities? ›

The most important traits to cultivate to be a caregiver of disabled persons are:
  • Empathy. One of the most important qualities of a caregiver is an empathetic nature. ...
  • Patience. Patience is essential when caring for individuals who aren't fully self-sufficient. ...
  • Adaptability. ...
  • Dependability. ...
  • Practical.
Jun 17, 2019

What skills are needed to work with autistic children? ›

  • 10 Characteristics of Great Autism Support Teachers.
  • Empathy. Empathy is a must! ...
  • Patience. Patience is a virtue! ...
  • Knowledge. Staying knowledgeable on diagnoses and disorders that students have in a teacher's classroom is important. ...
  • Attentiveness. ...
  • Curiosity. ...
  • Adaptive. ...
  • Creative.

What do you learn by working with children of special needs? ›

Working with children with special needs will teach you very important lessons in life. You will come to the realization that you don't have to be a saint to succeed in meeting the needs of others. You will acquire a better understanding of the problems such children face in their development.

What is the most important quality for a disability support worker? ›

Empathy, patience, and understanding are critical attributes in working as a support disability worker. Every person you support will be unique, so it's important to understand how you might be able to help someone achieve their goals, whatever they are.

What are the 3 qualities people with disabilities want from non disabled people? ›

We must be understanding, patient, and resilient. These qualities are held as disabled people's finest qualities when we manage to have them, and our greatest failing when we don't.

What are three important skills that childcare workers should have? ›

Important Qualities
  • Communication skills. Childcare workers need good speaking skills to provide direction or information effectively and good listening skills to understand parents' instructions.
  • Decision-making skills. ...
  • Interpersonal skills. ...
  • Patience. ...
  • Physical stamina.
Oct 4, 2022

What qualities and skills should a childcare worker have? ›

Excellent leadership and communication skills. Ability to relate well with children to foster their development educationally and socially. Organisational and planning skills. Experience of delivery of suitable curriculum in early education settings for children from 0 to 6 years of age.

What are 5 strategies used to work with a child with autism? ›

Our 5 Best Autism Teaching Strategies
  • Support Routines and Transitions. Most children with autism are sensitive to abrupt changes in routine and will learn best in routine situations. ...
  • Use Visual Cues. ...
  • Use Special Interests as a Gateway to Teaching Skills. ...
  • Incorporate Sensory Tools. ...
  • Support social skills practice.
Nov 5, 2019

What skills do you need to be able to communicate with autism? ›

These skills include using eye contact, gestures, body movements, imitation, and babbling and other vocalizations to help them communicate. Children who lack these skills may be evaluated and treated by a speech-language pathologist to prevent further developmental delays.

What skills and talents do people with autism have? ›

Autistic people may display a range of strengths and abilities that can be directly related to their diagnosis, including:
  • Learning to read at a very early age (known as hyperlexia).
  • Memorising and learning information quickly.
  • Thinking and learning in a visual way.
  • Logical thinking ability.

What skills do people need to teach and take care of children with disabilities? ›

Top Skills Needed to Work with Developmentally Disabled
  • Organization and Adaptability. These may seem like two separate—even opposite—personality traits. ...
  • Patience. Again, this is a skill that is needed for working with children of any ability. ...
  • Kindness and Empathy. ...
  • Optimism. ...
  • Communication Skills.
Dec 9, 2021

Why do I like working with children with special needs? ›

It's about preparing children who are most in need for their life, helping them to be successful, get a job - and ultimately live independently one day. It's about giving them a life without limits, opening doors and showing them that anything is possible.

What characteristics are important for teachers to have working with children with disabilities? ›

The Qualities of a Special Ed Teacher – What it Takes to be Great
  • Adaptability. Classrooms can be unpredictable. ...
  • Collaboration. ...
  • Communication skills. ...
  • Compassion. ...
  • Devotion to improvement. ...
  • Assessment skills. ...
  • Knowledge of theory and practice. ...
  • Listening skills.
Aug 17, 2018

What are 5 responsibilities of a disability support worker? ›

What does a Disability Support Worker do? Disability support workers help aged and disabled people with a range of daily tasks. These include personal hygiene facilitation, mobility support, shopping tasks, food preparation, housework tasks, and the coordination of social events.

What are five important personal qualities of a support worker? ›

The 5 Qualities of a Great Support Worker
  • Passionate about helping others. Do you enjoy helping other people? ...
  • Patience and emotional resilience. ...
  • Desire to improve the life of another. ...
  • Good communicator and listener. ...
  • Able to adapt and stay calm in challenging situations.
Jan 31, 2022

What 4 things should you do when dealing with a disabled person? ›

General Etiquette Tips
  1. Practice the Golden Rule. Treat everyone as you would like to be treated. ...
  2. Always Ask Before Giving Assistance. Just because a person has a disability, they don't necessarily need or want your assistance. ...
  3. Think Before You Speak. ...
  4. Avoid Showing Pity or Being Patronizing.

What motivates you to work with persons with special needs? ›

When you work in disability services, you have a profound impact on someone's life. You're providing care and support to someone who needs it most and helping them to become more independent and confident in their own abilities. Every day is a chance to do something different and make a difference.

What skills are intellectual disability? ›

Intellectual disability 1 involves problems with general mental abilities that affect functioning in two areas: Intellectual functioning (such as learning, problem solving, judgement). Adaptive functioning (activities of daily life such as communication and independent living).

What are 5 skills you need as an early childhood educator? ›

5 Essential Skills for an Early Childhood Educator
  • Patience. Children go through different stages of learning. ...
  • Communication. Young children aren't always good at expressing themselves or effectively communicating—that's why ECE teachers need to be excellent communicators. ...
  • Creativity. ...
  • Organization. ...
  • Enthusiasm.

What is one of the most important skills for early childhood professionals? ›

Patience, communication, and a love of young children are just a few of the qualities you'll need if you want to become an early childhood educator. Young children move a mile a minute, aren't always the best listeners and are learning just about everything as if it's brand new.

What are the top three skills required at work? ›

Top 5 Skills Employers Look For
  • Critical thinking and problem solving.
  • Teamwork and collaboration.
  • Professionalism and strong work ethic.
  • Oral and written communications skills.
  • Leadership.

How do you work with children with autism? ›

A good treatment plan will:
  1. Build on your child's interests.
  2. Offer a predictable schedule.
  3. Teach tasks as a series of simple steps.
  4. Actively engage your child's attention in highly structured activities.
  5. Provide regular reinforcement of behavior.
  6. Involve the parents.
Feb 24, 2023

How do you work with a child with autism in the classroom? ›

Here are six tips to help your students with autism thrive in the classroom.
  1. Avoid sensory overload. Many unexpected things can be distracting to students with autism. ...
  2. Use visuals. ...
  3. Be predictable. ...
  4. Keep language concrete. ...
  5. Directly teach social skills. ...
  6. Treat students as individuals.
Mar 15, 2016

What are the strategies to improve organizational skills of children with autism? ›

You can help your students strengthen their organizational skills by teaching strategies such as using routines, organizing assignments and planning for time management. Routines help students with autism create habits that allow them to focus on academics rather than organization.

What are functional communication skills? ›

Functional communication refers to the most basic of communication skills. This type of communication gets one's basic wants and needs known, such as “I want that”, “I am hurt”, or “I need to use the bathroom”.

What is functional communication skills for autism? ›

Functional Communication Training (FCT) is a therapy for autistic children. It aims to replace challenging behaviour with new ways of communicating that achieve the same thing. The therapy might focus on verbal communication, or it might include signing, pictures or speech generating devices.

Why do we need communication skills in autism? ›

Communication skills are important for autistic children's development. They help with behaviour, learning and socialising. Autistic children need support to develop communication skills. To work on your child's communication skills, start by assessing the communication level your child is using now.

What skills do you need to work with autistic adults? ›

Good communication with people with autism is vital. This includes recognising behaviour triggers, using visual prompts and speaking in short, clear sentences. Structure can help people with autism make sense of their day. It is important to emphasise positives when working with people with autism.

What social skills do you teach autism? ›

Skills like how to start a conversation, how to give a compliment, and how to take turns in a conversation are often taught in social skills training. Teaching nonverbal skills, such as making eye contact, making facial expressions, and using the right gestures, is also very important.

What are the special skills? ›

Top ten skills for 10 common job functions
educationadministrativeaccounting & finance
Ability to Work in a TeamCustomer ServiceCustomer Service
Communication SkillsMultitasking SkillsLeadership
Fast LearnerExcellent Communication SkillsCommunication Skills
Strong Organizational SkillsMicrosoft OfficeAdaptability
6 more rows

What skills are required to work with special needs? ›

You'll need patience and have highly-developed, flexible communication skills. You'll be responsible for people with a range of needs so being highly organised, flexible and able to prioritise effectively will be vital.

What skills are required for special needs assistant? ›

Communication and Interpersonal Skills • Is an excellent communicator who is able to motivate, encourage and instil confidence. Has the ability to quickly build rapport. Is respectful and displays high emotional intelligence. Is resilient, has patience and energy to persevere.

What qualities do you need to work with special needs? ›

Personal skills:

Understanding of the role of the Special Needs Assistant. Empathy. Patience. Kindness.

What is the job called when you work with special needs kids? ›

Social Worker

Social workers make a career working with both children and adults in many situations. They may provide aid for the child with special needs but also support for the family in various ways, like connecting to schools, therapists, or other counselors that best suit the child's needs.

What qualifications do I need to work with special needs adults? ›

A degree in Social Work will teach you to develop and maintain the confidence of service users, such as those with a disability, protecting their rights, effectively promoting their interests and ensuring equality. A vulnerable group you may wish to work with is people with special needs or disabilities.

What are the 3 most important roles of a special education teacher? ›

Special education teachers typically do the following: Assess students' skills and determine their educational needs. Adapt general lessons to meet students' needs. Develop Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for each student.

What are the skills of special educator? ›

Skills of Special Education Teachers
  • Organization. The teacher, as well as the classroom, must be organized. ...
  • Creativity. ...
  • Highly intuitive. ...
  • Calming nature. ...
  • Detail-oriented. ...
  • Deadline-oriented. ...
  • Adaptability. ...
  • Even tempered.
Jul 23, 2019

What are the most important skills for a teacher of students with severe disabilities? ›

Three common soft skills for a severe disabilities special education teacher are communication skills, patience and resourcefulness.

What are the five qualities of a Counsellor needed to work with special population with disability? ›

Good Qualities in a Rehabilitation Counselor
  • Dedication to Patients. ...
  • A Sense of Compassion. ...
  • Strong Communication Skills. ...
  • Problem-Solving Skills.

What values are important as a disability support worker and why? ›

Integrity and Honesty

Integrity and honesty is one of the most important requirements for a person centred support worker. We expect all of our person centred support workers to be trustworthy, reliable and honest.

How can I be a good coworker to someone with disability? ›

Here are some ways to include coworkers with disabilities professionally and socially in the workplace.
  1. Learn their preferred communication method. ...
  2. Include them in meetings. ...
  3. Be friendly. ...
  4. Ask for their input. ...
  5. Don't treat anyone as “the token disabled person” ...
  6. Be flexible. ...
  7. Ask for their expertise.

What skills and capabilities most important that a crisis counselor needs to have? ›

There are some qualities that can help counselors handling a crisis, including the ability to be empathetic, flexible, compassionate, resilient, collaborative, flexible, and emotionally stable and supportive (Ottens et al., 2009).

What traits characteristics skills would assist you in working with students individuals with disabilities and their families? ›

Many types of professionals get to work with children with special needs every day. While the jobs they perform and their personalities may differ, the best people in this field are organized, adaptable, calming, understanding, dedicated, and passionate.

What are six qualities of an effective counselor? ›

There are six personal characteristics that are critical for good counselors and should be improved upon continually. These include having good interpersonal skills and being trustworthy, flexible, hopeful/optimistic, culturally sensitive, and self-aware.

What are five roles of direct support worker when supporting a person with disabilities? ›

Direct Support Professional Roles

You are a teacher, partner, resource, ambassador, advocate, encourager and provider.

What strengths and skills do you bring to the role of support worker? ›

What makes a great support worker? The top five qualities to look for
  • They know when to step up and step back. Your support worker should know when to provide the support you've asked for, and when to let you do your own thing. ...
  • They know the value of communication. ...
  • Patience and a sense of humour. ...
  • Reliability. ...
  • Respect.


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