What Kind of Job Options Do I Have If I Want to Work With Children With Disabilities?

by Beth Greenwood

Disabled children have a variety of challenges in their daily lives. Impairments might range from a speech impediment to a severe condition such as cerebral palsy. No matter the condition, many children go on to lead happy and successful lives if they receive the help they need. Not surprisingly, most of the careers connected to disabled children are in the health care and education fields.

Occupational Therapist

Occupational therapists use daily activities to help children gain or regain certain functions. For example, an OT might teach a child with cerebral palsy a modified way of brushing her hair or feeding herself. Or, an OT might evaluate a patient’s home to ensure it is safe or make recommendations about equipment that can help promote mobility or function. OTs usually have at least a master’s degree, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, although some have a doctorate. All states require that OTs be licensed. Many choose to become certified, which is optional. OTs earned an average annual salary of $76,400 in 2012, according to the BLS.

Speech-Language Pathologists

Speech-language pathologists might work with children who have speech impediments due to conditions such as developmental delay, hearing problems or cleft palate. The SLP assesses the level of the child’s disability and develops a treatment plan, teaches her how to make sounds or use an alternative communication method such as sign language. The BLS notes that SLPs must have a master’s degree. Although a particular undergraduate degree is not required, most programs require that certain courses be taken prior to entering the master’s program. All states require licensure, but certification is optional. The average annual salary for SLPs in 2012 was $72,730, according to the BLS.

Recreational Therapists

Recreational therapists use techniques such as arts and crafts, drama, music, dance and sports to help children with disabilities improve their physical and emotional well-being, according to the BLS. They might help disabled children gain social skills through playing games, or take them on field trips. The goal of such activities is not recreation, but therapy to improve function. RTs usually need a bachelor’s degree. Although licensing is not required, the BLS reports most employers prefer to hire RTs who are certified by the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification. The average annual salary for RTs in 2012 was $44,280, according to the BLS.

Special Education Teachers

Special education teachers work in private or public schools, where they teach children who have mental, physical, emotional or learning disabilities. Some students may need modified lesson plans or alternative teaching strategies. A child who cannot hear, for example, might need to work with a teacher who can use sign language. If children have severe disabilities, the teacher may work only on basic literacy, communication or math. A bachelor’s degree and a teaching certificate or license are the minimum qualifications for a special education teacher, according to the BLS. Requirements may be different in public and private school or vary by state. Special education teachers in all venues earned an average of $54,550 a year in 2012, according to the BLS.

About the Author

Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images