Special Needs Teaching

By Whichcollege.ie - Last update

Get Daily news and updates directly to your Email

Special needs teaching is more of a vocation than just a job. Special needs teachers work with children who have a variety of conditions. These can range from emotional and behavioural problems to children with complex physical or mental handicaps. It is a highly challenging career, both physically and emotionally.

Due to the demanding nature of the job, two or three years’ experience is usually needed. Therefore, you must be a qualified teacher first before you can specialise in this field.


Some undergraduate courses, such as the Bachelor of Education touch upon special needs teaching, you will have to complete a postgraduate programme to become a special needs teacher. Postgraduate programmes include the Graduate Diploma in Special Education Needs provided by UCD, UCC, and St Angela’s College.

You can attain good experience of helping pupils with special needs by becoming a special needs assistant (SNA). QQI accredited childcare courses that provide SNA training are available from local colleges across Ireland. Modules you will study include:

  • Working in Childcare
  • Child Development
  • Caring for Children with Special Needs
  • Art & Craft for Childcare

Special needs teachers and assistants work in three different areas. Many children with special needs attend normal classes but have a resource teacher or special needs assistant. Some schools provide special classes with a deliberately low teacher-pupil ratio, to ensure a more focused approach, and there are also over one hundred special needs schools nationwide.

The Work

There are hugely differing special needs requirements and so it is impossible to simply categorise a special needs teacher’s role. A common goal is to encourage self-confidence and independence among the pupils.

Imaginative methods of teaching are often utilised to convey the coarse material in a manner that suits the child, often involving audio-visual materials and computers.

Specific conditions require different techniques. Pupils with learning difficulties may only need extra tuition to catch up with the rest of the class. Those with behavioural difficulties often require guidance in expressing themselves effectively. Students with permanent or long-term conditions, such as blindness, need to learn special skills (such as Braille) to help improve their quality of life. In the case of severely disabled students, assistance is often required with basic skills such as washing, dressing, and feeding themselves.

In all cases, it is vital that the special needs teacher maintains constant communication with all others involved in the pupil’s wellbeing, including parents, doctors, social workers, physiotherapists, and psychologists.

Special needs assistants work under the supervision of the class teacher. Their duties can involve helping pupils to improve their independent living skills, supporting pupils in social activities and outings, assisting pupils during therapy sessions, and attending to pupils’ physical needs.

Good communication skills and patience are essential for becoming a special needs teacher. A warm and outgoing personality will also go a long way in establishing a trusting relationship with students.
Special needs teaching will often require creative thinking and good problem-solving skills, as you must find a way to convey information in a manner that best suits your pupils’ learning capabilities.

Did you know?

In Denmark, 99 per cent of students with specific learning difficulties like dyslexia are educated alongside students without any learning challenges.

Further Resources

Special Education Support Service
National Council for Special Education
Irish Association of Teachers in Special Education


Whichcollege.ie is a national database of universities, colleges, institutes and providers of third level and PLC courses in Ireland. We operate a national search database of courses at certificate, diploma and degree level as well as providing information about career paths and directions.
Entrepreneurship: Valerie O'Reilly of Unicorn Communications
Special Feature: Journalism - Still alive and kicking!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

We'd love to send you the latest news and articles about evening classes, further learning and adult education by email. We'll always treat your personal details with the utmost care and will never sell them to other companies for marketing purposes.

Comments and Reviews Policy