Social Issues That Special Education Teachers Face

by Alison Green

Special education refers to instruction designed to meet the needs of children with behavioral and emotional disabilities, mental disorders and developmental delays. As special education teachers strive to improve the learning skills of disabled students, they must negotiate social issues such as increased isolation, lack of appreciation, low parent participation and lack of sufficient administrative support.

Dipping Participation

For children with special needs to realize their academic ambitions, parents, teachers and communities must help each other. However, lack of parental support is the biggest problem facing learning institutions, according to the Enterprise City Schools website. Given that most parents may be busy working, special education teachers find it challenging to bridge the gap between home and school. For instance, when a special educator wants to inquire about a student, he can feel discouraged when the parent doesn’t respond to emails or return calls.

Increasing Isolation

Unlike general education teachers, beginning special educators receive little guidance or professional support from administrators or policy makers, according to authors Peter Youngs, Nathan Jones, Mark Low of Michigan State University. This may lead to special educators resigning or switching careers. Besides, although the use of isolated special education programs yields positive results on students, it prevents special education teachers from effectively collaborating with general education colleagues to plan appropriate instructional strategies.

Diminishing Appreciation

Instead of receiving appreciation for putting effort in instructing students with varying disabilities, special educators often find themselves dealing with advocates and attorneys. When an individualized education program is not meeting set objectives, for instance, a blame game may erupt, with parents blaming schools, and schools shifting blame to special educators. Given that the law doesn’t specify who bears responsibility when a parent, for example, challenges her child’s identification, evaluation and program, or IEP, in court, special education instructors can be easy targets because of their low rank.

Grieving Parents

Sometimes special education teachers have to face parents who are dealing with grief, particularly when their child’s disability is long term. To such parents, disability dashes hope and your challenge as a special educator is to help them realize new dreams for their children. Although helping parents cope with disappointment and frustration may not part of your professional job description, it enhances parental involvement -- which is crucial to improving children’s educational outcomes. This, however, presents an extra task at no extra pay.

About the Author

Based in New York City, Alison Green has been writing professionally on career topics for more than a decade. Her work has appeared in “U.S. News Weekly” magazine, “The Career” magazine and “Human Resources Journal.” Green holds a master's degree in finance from New York University.

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