Working with mentally disabled children can be rewarding, but it also requires patience and personal strength. There isn't one set salary for working with mentally handicapped kids--what you make depends on what specific job interests you. You may help children develop life skills, assess their speech, evaluate them to help choose teaching strategies or assist with their schoolwork.
Special Education Teachers
Like other teachers, special education instructors have to hold a four-year degree and complete approved teacher education courses. In some states, special education teachers need extra qualifications on top of the basics, such as a fifth year of study or graduate-level qualifications. Special education teachers work with handicapped students one-on-one or in small groups to help them meet their learning goals. According to 2010 information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual salary for special education teachers in preschool, kindergarten and elementary school classrooms was $55,220.
Child psychologists employed in schools ensure a safe and effective learning environment for all students, but one of their main duties is evaluating kids with disabilities to make recommendations to parents and teachers. They offer advice about lesson plans and provide expertise on behavior management issues. To practice in schools, psychologists need a specialized Ed.S. designation in most states. In May 2010, the reported mean annual wage for school psychologists was $72,540--about $34.87 per hour.
Speech-language pathologists work with everyone from the very old to the very young, and these professionals have an important role assisting mentally disabled children with their language skills and social development. For example, they help children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Down Syndrome and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder develop speaking skills and basic literacy, as well as an understanding of manners and peer interaction. Most speech pathologists hold a professional master's degree in the field. As of 2010, the Bureau reported that speech-language pathologists earned $69,880 per year on average, equivalent to an hourly salary of $33.60.
Occupational therapists focus on helping patients develop life skills. For example, they might help disabled children learn how to dress themselves, acquire abstract reasoning skills, improve hand-eye coordination or work on short-term memory. Occupational therapists use a combination of computer-based aids, games and exercises to help their young clients become as independent as possible. In school, therapists advise lesson plan modifications to facilitate student inclusion. Occupational therapists typically need a master's degree to practice. As of May 2010, these professionals earned $35.28 per hour, or $73,380 on average.