Important Attributes You Need To Become A Special Education Teacher

Many people who enter the field of education do it out of a sense of vocation. They want to make an actual difference in the lives of their students and assist them in their development. But there are not many areas in education that are as fulfilling and impactful as a special education teacher. 

Special educational needs teachers have to deal with children with different conditions, mental health needs or development issues. However, only a handful of people truly have the aptitudes and temperament needed to be successful in this field. Here are some of the skills and traits you need as a special education teacher.

The Right Formation

It all starts with the proper formation. If you want to become an SEN teacher, you’ll need to start with a degree in education. You might be able to get by with a bachelors, but many schools will privilege graduates who have a MA in education. There are numerous institutions where you can find a college program for a teaching degree, and doing research is crucial to find the right place for your interests.

If you want to learn more about the certifications and formation needed to become a special education teacher, you can find more information at Exeter Online.


A good special educational needs teacher will also need to have a great sense of organization. Students with special needs need the structure that a well organized teacher can provide, and it can give them more confidence. This also allows them to be more organized themselves. 

For instance, some of the ways that you can keep classes organized are by installing bins of different colors, and clearly marking what should go in each. You can assign tasks to certain groups of students and rotate so that everyone has an equal workload. You will be able to organize communication with parents by giving students communication notebooks that will travel from school to home and back.


Another trait that you’ll need as a special educational needs teacher is patience. Depending on where you work, you might be asked to work with students with all types of different learning difficulties or conditions. And some might manifest themselves more strongly than others. Or, in other cases, you might have more trouble getting some students to come out of their shells and actually talk to you.

In all these cases, you’ll need to be patient, and you’ll have to be able to keep a log of all your students’ individual needs. You’ll need to be able to learn and use the right approach with all students. Not only that, but you’ll also need to show patience when giving tasks. Some will take more time than others to complete work. In all cases, you’ll have to give your students the time it takes to complete tasks without feeling rushed.


Another trait you’ll need to have is creativity. Like we mentioned earlier since you’ll often have to deal with students with their own specific needs, you’ll also need to be able to adapt your teaching style accordingly. And you’ll need to build classes that will keep the whole group involved and engaged as well.

If you’re creative, you’ll be able to find unique ways to reward students and keep them motivated. You’ll be able to change class settings and organize outside activities that your students will genuinely connect to. Creative teachers are able to instill the love of learning in their students and find ways to unlock their true potential by not only speaking to their strengths but catering to them as well.


Learning how to connect to students demands a good deal of intuition as well. Intuition is really a combination of attentiveness, compassion, and emotional intelligence. This will come in especially handy if you end up working with students who have gaps in their communication skills. Some may act out at times without a clear reason. 

It will be up to you to know if they’re bursting out of anger, frustration, or simply because they lack attention. Your intuition will not only allow you to identify possible underlying issues but help resolve them as well.

Detail Oriented

You can’t only rely on your intuition when working as an SEN teacher. As a matter of fact, if you check out any type of description for special educational needs teacher openings, you’ll often notice that “must be detail-oriented” will usually be at the top of the list of qualifications.

So, in addition to being well organized, you will also need to be able to notice the subtle changes in behavior in your students. You’ll need to be able to gauge their mood, and whether they’re having issues or not. You’ll need to be able to keep track of which of your students are improving or on a downward slope.

Your attention to detail will also help you identify other possible issues the child may be experiencing. For instance, you might be able to spot early signs of physical or emotional abuse. Or you could notice something strange in the family dynamic when speaking with the parents. Being detail-oriented could end up helping you in all sorts of situations and is one of the most important skills to have in the special education field.

Calm and Composed

You also need to be strong under pressure and show a calm face no matter the situation. This is not always easy, especially when students are being physically or verbally abusive towards you. A regular classroom can already be stressful and chaotic, but matters are only magnified in a special needs environment. 

As a special educational needs teacher, you’ll not only need to be able to stay calm but find ways to calm down the class as well. If you can’t keep a class in control and get consensus without losing your composure, then you’ll have trouble lasting as a special education teacher.

You’ll also need to be able to deal with stress at many levels. Not only can the environment be stressful, but you might feel pressure for your students to meet certain benchmarks, which can be difficult depending on the makeup of your class. You’ll also have to deal with parents who might blame you for the child’s lack of development. These are all things you’ll have to be able to cope with as an SEN teacher.


If you’re looking for a nice set routine and don’t deal well with unpredictability, then this field is not for you. But if you like challenges, and don’t like monotony, then special education might be the field for you.

You just never know what might happen in a special needs class. On some days, one half of the class might decide to have a collective meltdown. Students go in and out to meet therapists all the time. Dynamics can change depending on the subject. This is why you’ll need to be able to adapt yourself to any situation. 

A Sense of Humor

While the job can be tough, having a good sense of humor will get you a long way in this business. Sometimes, humor is all it takes to de-fuse a situation. Students will also be more willing to trust and open themselves to you. Just being able to get a good laugh out of your class could completely change the room’s dynamic. While it is not an absolute prerequisite, if you’re too rigid, you’ll definitely struggle as an SEN teacher.

Deadline Oriented

While you want to be more flexible with children in need, you still need to instill some sort of structure, and you’ll need to be able to set clear deadlines. You want these deadlines to be lenient enough for them to not feel pressured, but strict enough to make sure that they stay focused. 

Having a clear deadline also calms children and gives them a routine and clear expectations. You might be surprised at how much having a clear ritual and clear parameters can help children with certain disorders, like those with ADHD, for instance. If you’re ever called to work with these kinds of students, this might be one of the most vital skills you can have.

True Love for Children

If your main motivation is a paycheck or advancement, then we should stop you right there; special education is not for you. However, if you have an actual love for children and want to help them grow, thrive, and succeed, then this is the best field for you. 

If you don’t feel like it’s your calling, then chances are you will not last. So, make sure that your main motivation is your dedication to children with needs and to their success before you even start considering the field.

Ask for Advice

Do you have what it takes to be a good special education needs teacher? If you possess a few or all of these traits, you might be a great candidate. Whatever you do, make sure that you know exactly what will be expected from you, and don’t hesitate to survey the field and ask those already working in the sector for advice.

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