Most new special education teachers lack full teaching credentials, according to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.
California prepared 2,515 new special education teachers in the 2017-18 fiscal year. Just 34% earned a complete California teacher credential (Source).
The gap in training has created a shortage of qualified teachers. There's a growing number of children needing special education services, and the Golden State cannot meet their needs (Source).
This article is the second in a series about the need for special education teachers with expertise in mild/moderate disabilities. It explores the category of intellectual disability.
Read on to learn more and discover 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.
What Is Intellectual Disability?
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) describes a person with intellectual disability as having (Source):
- Significantly subaverage intellectual functioning. This refers to skills such as learning, problem-solving, and judgment.
- Deficits in adaptive behavior. Adaptive behaviors are everyday abilities. An individual with an intellectual disability has limitations with conceptual, social, and practical skills. Examples include reading, showing empathy, and personal care (Source).
The symptoms of intellectual disability develop during childhood and can adversely affect academic performance.
That's why early intervention is critical. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that intervention is more effective the earlier it’s provided (Source).
What Are the Levels of Intellectual Disability?
Intellectual disability varies by individual. There are four levels, and approximately 95% of cases in the U.S. are considered mild or moderate (Source):
- Mild: Individuals can learn practical skills and, therefore, live independently with minimal support.
- Moderate: Individuals can take care of themselves, navigate to familiar places, and learn basic health and safety skills. As a result, they can achieve independence with moderate support.
- Severe: Individuals have major delays in development. They can learn simple routines and self-care but need supervision in social situations. Many require a supervised living environment, such as a group home.
- Profound: Individuals cannot live independently. They often need supervised self-care and have communication and physical limitations.
The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing includes mild and moderate intellectual disability in the Mild/Moderate Disabilities specialty area of the California teacher credential (Source).
How Does Intellectual Disability Affect Learning?
Intellectual disability slows learning and development. The delays are caused by limitations in intellectual and adaptive functioning.
There are a variety of possible symptoms that can affect academic performance, including (Source):
- Problems with short-term memory
- Slow language development
- Limited vocabulary
- Difficulty understanding social cues
- Less complex spoken language
The good news is academic outcomes for students with intellectual disabilities have improved over time.
That’s because special education teachers are qualified to support all of the possible limitations. So children with intellectual disabilities benefit from receiving their support at school.
You can prepare to teach students with mild to moderate disabilities, including intellectual disability, in Redlands’ accredited online master’s in teaching program.
Integrated with the Education Specialist Teaching Credential, the curriculum will enable you to make positive learning outcomes accessible to all learners.
How Common Are Intellectual Disabilities Among Children?
Among the 13 categories of disability defined by IDEA, intellectual disability is the fifth most prevalent. Approximately 6% of students ages 3 to 21 who receive special education services have intellectual disabilities (Source).
This proportion is a remarkable change. Between 1976-77 and 2017-18, the share of children with intellectual disabilities dropped from 26% to 6.3%. Forty years ago, intellectual disability was the second most common type.
California figures reflect national trends. Six percent of special education students in the Golden State have intellectual disabilities, which is the fourth most prevalent type of disability (Source).
How Does Intellectual Disability Differ from Learning Disabilities?
IDEA recognizes intellectual disability and learning disabilities, but they’re not the same. While low intelligence is a symptom of intellectual disability, it is not a characteristic of learning disabilities.
An individual with an intellectual disability has below average intellectual functioning and limitations in everyday skills. Together, these symptoms can slow learning and development.
Someone with a learning disability does not have low intelligence. Instead, they have a weakness with specific academic skills, such as reading or math (Source). Examples of learning disabilities are dyslexia and auditory processing disorder.
Learning disabilities occur more frequently than intellectual disability. Almost 34% of students ages 3 to 21 receiving special education services have intellectual disabilities (Source). That's over five times the number of students with intellectual disabilities.
How Do Special Education Teachers Support Students with Intellectual Disabilities?
The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing authorizes special education teachers to carry out specific duties. They can conduct educational assessments, provide instruction, and special education support (Source).
An online master’s in teaching will train you in all of these areas. But Redland’s program goes even further.
The Online Master of Arts in Education, Learning and Teaching will help you learn new approaches to respond to the complexities of teaching in the 21st century. Underpinned by social justice principles, the program will empower you as an educator as well as an advocate.
You’ll not only build competencies through hands-on practice but broaden your knowledge of education theory, cultural diversity, special education, and inclusion.
Through engaging coursework, you will:
- Understand the tensions between (dis)ability studies and special education.
- Recognize the impact of othering.
- Learn how to navigate these tensions while practicing self-reflexivity and advocating for students with disabilities.
As a graduate, you’ll be fully equipped to maximize learning for all children as a special education teacher.
How Can Redlands Prepare Me to Support Learners with Mild/Moderate Disabilities?
Accredited by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, Redlands’ online Master of Arts in Education, Learning and Teaching is an integrative blend of the California teacher credential and a master’s degree.
You’ll work toward meeting the State of California-approved requirements for the Education Specialist Teaching Credential while preparing to teach mild to moderate disability special education students in K-12 settings through age 22.
The program provides the educational foundation and practical skills needed to support diverse learners. You’ll learn to:
- Apply Response to Intervention, Behavior Support Plans, Positive Behavior Intervention, and IEP goal-writing to help all students learn to their highest potential.
- Use advanced techniques for student assessment data.
- Design, conduct, interpret, and report on research and assessments.
- Understand how you make sense of student behavior.
- Design, implement, and evaluate evidence-based differentiated, culturally responsive teaching practices grounded in person-centered values.
You can complete the coursework at your own pace and convenience in Redlands’ virtual learning environment. You’ll interact with your professors and peer group through online discussions and learn through a variety of methods, including teamwork-focused classes.
Looking for More Information?
If you have questions about the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing requirements for special education teachers, start by filling out the form on this page.
A University of Redlands online Enrollment Counselor will be in touch to answer your questions and help you explore Redlands’ online master's in teaching with an education specialist certificate.