There are a number of challenges associated with children who are on the spectrum or struggle with other special needs of a wide variety, but sometimes the biggest is external. Children with behavioral disorders require rigid structure in order to grow and learn to fit into society as a whole. When the environments–people included–are more likely to shift and change around these children than any others, the difficulties can become exacerbated.
Special education as a profession suffers from a high attrition rate. It’s not hard to understand why. In addition to the difficult nature of the job, teachers in general aren’t paid enough to make the headache worth the time and effort they put in each and every day. Parents don’t have a choice, but teachers do. That’s why they burn out so much faster. Around half of special education teachers will quit within five years. A quarter of the initial group will start looking for other career options after ten years.
Those rates are unacceptable, especially when it means change for the children.
There are things we can do to help the situation. Stress management is key. Teachers can prepare to interact with children who have special needs, but also they must prepare to take some alone time when a particularly challenging day presents itself. It’s not easy to have your own capabilities questioned every single day, and it reduces self-esteem. Teachers are human beings who could benefit from therapy just as much as anyone else. They must learn to eat and exercise properly, and find hobbies that extend past sedentary activities like the television.
Many of these children require more one-on-one time, and it can be hard to provide when other children act out or try to grab attention. The children should be routinely interviewed in order to document progress–or even after new issues that arrive from changing environments, if that’s the case. Teachers should strive to increase parental involvement both in and out of the classroom. It’s necessary to maintain a relationship with child and parent to achieve a measure of success.
This profession is not for the faint of heart or the unhealthy. You have to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else.