The Need for Special Education Teachers Part 1: Emotional Disturbance

The Need for Special Education Teachers Part 1: Emotional Disturbance
The Need for Special Education Teachers Part 1: Emotional Disturbance

In California, there's a huge need for qualified special education teachers. You can help address it by earning an online master's in teaching.

Twenty-five percent of California special education teachers who were teaching in 2014 will have retired by 2024. That's according to a 2017 Learning Policy Institute report (Source).

Demand is especially high for those trained in the area of mild/moderate disabilities. During the 2018-19 school year, nearly three out of five students receiving special education services had one (Source).

This article is the first in a series that will explore the need for special education teachers with expertise in mild/moderate disabilities.

You'll explore each type and how earning an online master's in teaching, like the one offered by the University of Redlands, can prepare you to improve learning for all students.

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What are mild/moderate disabilities?

The California teaching credential authorizes special education teachers to practice in a certain area of disability. One is mild/moderate disabilities.

According to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, mild/moderate disabilities include (Source):

  1. Specific learning disabilities
  2. Mild to moderate intellectual disabilities
  3. Other health impairment
  4. Serious emotional disturbance

Read on to learn about the key characteristics and prevalence of emotional disturbance in learners today.

What is emotional disturbance?

Under the U.S. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a child with emotional disturbance has at least one of the following characteristics: (Source)

  • An inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors.
  • An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers.
  • Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances.
  • A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression.
  • A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems.

Emotional disturbance is a reaction that occurs when a child is not able to understand or articulate something. Some types of emotional disturbance are more common in children than others. Anxiety disorders, ADHD, depression, and eating disorders are examples (Source).

To qualify for special education services, a child must exhibit the characteristic over a long period. The trait must also hinder their educational performance.

How does emotional disturbance affect learning?

Emotional disturbance can impact a child’s physical, social, and cognitive ability, and, therefore, their ability to learn (Source).

As a result, students with emotional disturbance face considerable risks in their education.

For example, during the 2015-16 school year, they were more likely than students with other types of disability to: (Source)

  • Drop out of school.
  • Receive a suspension or expulsion of over 10 days.
  • Be removed to a temporary alternative educational setting.

It’s clear that special education teachers have an extraordinary opportunity to support these learners.

How common is emotional disturbance in children?

IDEA recognizes 13 categories of disability. After the category of multiple disabilities, emotional disturbance is the least common among U.S. students ages 6 to 21. There are about 6 million who receive special education services, and 5.5% have emotional disturbance (Source).

The number of students ages 3 to 21 served for emotional disturbance has decreased over time. Between the 2000-01 and 2017-18 school years, the percentage dropped from 7.6% to 5.1% (Source).

How can special education teachers support students with emotional disturbance?

The chief goal of special education teachers is to facilitate learning for all children. In turn, children can develop to their fullest potential.

For those with emotional disturbance, special education teachers are key to behavior modification. They focus on providing socio emotional support that helps enforce positive behaviors, such as self-control and self-awareness, that can lead to improved academic performance (Source).

The following are just some of the ways that special education teachers can support students with learning and behavior needs. An online master's in teaching program will teach you all of the fundamentals.

In some cases, a child will also need counseling. Special education teachers collaborate with school counselors, social workers, and psychologists to help them explore and resolve personal and social issues.

Response to Intervention (RtI)

RtI attempts to identify students with learning and behavior needs early. Students undergo screening in the general education classroom. Those who are struggling may qualify to receive support from a special education teacher.

The special education teacher designs and implements various learning and behavior interventions. They evaluate the student's response and then decide how the duration and intensity of the intervention should change to enhance learning (Source).

Behavior Support Plan (BSP)

A BSP focuses on replacing or reducing challenging behaviors with positive ones. First, the special education teacher identifies the purpose of the student's challenging behavior, which can take time. Then, the teacher helps the student develop positive behaviors that will fulfill the same need (Source).

Positive Behavior Intervention (PBI)

PBI is a tiered approach to promoting positive behavior. Schools that employ PBI set aside time to teach appropriate behavior, just like any other subject. The three tiers aim to support a specific group of students: (Source)

  1. Children schoolwide learn about behavior expectations and are recognized by staff for good behavior.
  2. Children who struggle with their behavior receive additional support by following specific interventions and instruction. These are often designed and implemented by a special education teacher.
  3. Students with behavioral issues receive individualized support from a special education teacher.

How can an online master's in teaching prepare me to support learners with emotional disturbance?

University of Redlands offers an online Master of Arts in Learning and Teaching with an Education Specialist Teaching Credential. It's specifically designed for aspiring special education teachers.

The program trains candidates to teach students with mild/moderate disabilities and autism in public or private K-12 classrooms.

It blends an online master's in teaching with a California teaching credential. You'll work towards meeting the State of California-approved requirements for the Preliminary Teaching Credential in the education specialist preliminary credential.

At the same time, you’ll learn all the practical skills required of special education teachers including:

  • Using advanced techniques for student assessment data.
  • Designing, conducting, interpreting, and reporting on research and assessments.
  • Understanding how you make sense of student behavior.
  • Designing, implementing, and evaluating evidence-based differentiated, culturally responsive teaching practices grounded in person-centered values.
  • Applying RtI, BSP, PBI, and IEP goal-writing to help all students learn to their highest potential.

University of Redlands’ online master's in teaching program goes further, too.

The underlying philosophy is derived from social justice principles. These perspectives will inform all of the work you will do as a student.

The curriculum examines cultural diversity, special education, and inclusion. You’ll understand how to make ethical decisions aligned with the goals of educational justice.

Graduates of the program are ready not only to make education accessible to all students, but to help children feel valued, respected, and welcomed in the classroom.

These are the essential knowledge areas and skills for special education teachers looking to impact the lives of learners with emotional disturbance.

What do you want to know about Redlands’ online master's in teaching?

To learn more about our online master's in teaching with education specialist certificate, complete the form on this page. A University of Redlands online Enrollment Counselor will be in touch to answer your questions.

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