Educator : Special Needs or Remedial

Special needs or remedial educators work with children who have disabilities. These include learning disabilities, speech or language impairments, mental retardation, emotional disturbance, multiple disabilities, hearing impairments, orthopedic impairments, visual impairments, autism, traumatic brain injury, and other health impairments. Learners' disabilities are classified under one of these categories, and special education educators work with specific groups. Early identification of children with special needs is an important part of a special needs educator's job.

The majority of special education teachers work with children with minor to moderate disabilities, using the general education curriculum, or modifying it, to meet the child’s individual needs. For instance a special needs educator may assist learners to overcome their specific learning disabilities therapeutically. Children with specific learning disabilities usually have average or above-average intelligence but cannot cope effectively with certain aspects of schoolwork. These disabilities manifest, for example, as an inability to integrate letters into words, reversal of letters, words and/or numbers, misspelling of words and an inability to do arithmetic.

Early intervention is essential in educating children with disabilities. Special needs educators may start their investigation by scrutinising learners’ workbooks for indications of any disabilities. They then test each child to verify or to diagnose the problem. To remedy the disability, they make use of various remedial aids and methods and also advise teachers and parents on ways to assist these children. A special needs educator may, for instance, help to develop an Individualised Education Programme (IEP) for each special needs learner. The IEP sets personalised goals for each student and is tailored to the student’s individual learning style and ability. They carefully monitor the behaviour and progress of each child with a disability. They may also work closely with parents to inform them of their child’s progress and suggest techniques to promote learning at home.

As schools become more inclusive, special needs educators and general education educators are increasingly working together in the classroom. Special needs educators help general educators adapt curriculum materials and teaching techniques to meet the needs of learners with disabilities. They coordinate the work of educators, educator assistants and related personnel, such as therapists and social workers, to meet the requirements of inclusive special education programmes. A large part of a special needs educator’s job involves interacting with others. Special needs educators communicate frequently with parents, social workers, school psychologists, occupational and physical therapists, school administrators, and with other educators.

Personal Requirements

  • above average intelligence
  • sympathetic and friendly
  • an enquiring mind
  • extremely patient
  • high level of perseverance
  • be self-confident and emotionally mature
  • good health and physical stamina
  • able to communicate easily and spontaneously
  • with people, especially children
  • work well as part of a team


  • Department of Education
  • universities
  • teachers’ training colleges / colleges of education for further training
  • private remedial institutions
  • provincial schools
  • private schools
  • self-employment, working on a freelance basis

Getting Started

  • try to obtain vacation or part-time work as a schoolteacher’s assistant or do voluntary work at a children’s home
  • try to obtain a position as a Sunday School teacher, camp leader or leader of a youth group
  • arrange to speak to remedial teachers about this type of career, ask permission to see some remedial aids to find out how these aids are used


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