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Special Needs Job Guide: Your Options for Special Needs Care Jobs

In Part 1 of our "Caregiver's Guide to Special Needs Care Jobs," we outline the types of jobs available within special needs care.

You have a lot of patience and you are able to interact with all sorts of people in ways that bring out their strengths. Perhaps you've had personal experience with someone who has special needs or have taken courses on the subject. You believe you can make a difference, and you've decided to pursue this career direction. But what kinds of jobs are out there and how do you find one?

Here are some job possibilities for caregivers who have an interest in special needs care.

In a Family's Home

  • Be a mother's helper working with a child with special needs in the home under the parent's supervision. Your presence will free the parent to focus on another child or other tasks, and it is a good way to get some experience in the field.
  • Babysit a child who has special needs when the parent is out of the home. You will need to learn how best to interact with the child and how to reinforce any therapeutic intervention he receives.
  • Provide respite care for a parent who has a child with special needs, enabling the parent to leave the home while you take over. This care could be provided for time periods ranging from an hour to a vacation of a week or more. Of course, you would need to thoroughly understand your role and feel comfortable with it, and you and the person you care for would have to be comfortable with each other before the parent goes away on a trip.
  • Be a nanny for a child with special needs. This position would normally require some experience working with someone with special needs or some training in the particular need the child has.
  • Be an au pair for a child with special needs. As an au pair, you will be attending college, and this kind of position might complement your studies if you are focusing on special needs training.
  • Work as an Applied Behavior Analysis therapist, after receiving instruction in how to provide this therapy to children with autism spectrum disorder.
  • If you are a certified nurse, you can work with children and adults with special needs who require nursing care.
  • If you are a certified occupational, behavior, speech, physical, learning, sensory integration or mental health therapist, you can work with children who have special needs, helping them to achieve their best.

In a School, Day Care or Treatment Center

  • Work as a teacher's assistant, one-on-one with a child with special needs. This position will require patience and attention, as well as the ability to collaborate with the teacher, school counselor, parent, and other school staff, and to take instruction from the special needs coordinator at the school. This position may not require special training, although the more you have, the better.
  • Work as a day care teacher at a center or family day care that has at least one child with special needs. This position would normally require some training in special needs.
  • Work as a special needs teacher or coordinator, if you are certified in special needs education for the appropriate level.
  • Work as a therapist for children with special needs -- across the range of areas mentioned above (many of which will require that you have the appropriate certification).

Now that you have identified the kinds of jobs you might enjoy, your next step will be to determine how much to charge for your services.

Ronnie Friedland has co-edited three books on parenting and interfaith family life.

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