Children with disabilities come with a variety of physical, mental, developmental, and emotional disorders. You can work with children who have muscular dystrophy, for example, or you might opt for children with developmental issues such as autism. You can work in schools, private institutions or homes.
Occupational therapists work with children who have a variety of issues. An occupational therapist might work with a child’s handwriting in a school setting, for example, developing an action plan with parents, teachers, and administrators to help the child write legibly in a school setting. Autistic children receive this type of support but so do children with developmental delays or maybe children who have been involved in an accident or have some other condition that weakened fine motor skills. Instruction is typically one on one and combines strengthening exercises with the fundamental basics of writing and also the use of utensils and other tools used for everyday functioning.
Physical therapists, whether working at a rehabilitation clinic, school, or hospital, seek to help children with disabilities get around more on their own. Disabilities can range from children who use wheelchairs to highly functioning autistic or delayed children who need help with gross motor skills such as walking up and down steps, catching and throwing a ball, or running with the correct gait. Physical therapists can work on strengthening muscles, navigating physical obstacles such as steps or curbs, and the overall physical well-being of the child.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth for special education teachers through 2018 will be at 17 percent, with teachers in the primary grades growing at 20 percent clip. Special education teachers have a wide spectrum of students, such as those with varying degrees of autism, emotional or behavioral disorders, or those with learning disabilities. Special education teachers also encounter children with “high-incidence” disabilities, those with speech-language disorders, dangerous or disruptive behavioral disorders, and disabilities that keep them from the regular classroom.
Early Childhood Special Educator
Early childhood intervention for children from ages three to five is key when diagnosing and treating children with disorders, especially those with delays or those in the autism spectrum. Those children are often far behind their peers and can struggle with everyday life in the classroom without help from early childhood intervention specialists. Common occupations include screeners and testers in preschools, “wrap-around” services providing help for parents at home and teachers in the classroom, and therapeutic specialists providing some level of occupational or physical therapy to very young children that have been targeted as candidates for early childhood intervention.