Special education and psychology, the study of thought and behavior, have a lot in common. It follows, then, that special education teachers’ training often includes a psychology component. These two fields are more closely intertwined in some college curricula. A special education concentration in a bachelor’s degree program in psychology can help students prepare for a career in teaching children with special needs while providing them with a strong foundation in psychology. Psychological approaches and diagnostic conditions are part of some graduate special education programs. If you are interested in learning more about why children with special needs act the way they do, you may want to consider a special education program that includes more psychology coursework.
Majors in Special Education and Psychology
Consider majoring in psychology if you want to work with children with special educational needs. General psychology programs lack instruction in teaching and learning, despite the importance of understanding the disorders and disabilities that can affect students’ academic, behavioral, and social performance. Getting a bachelor’s degree in psychology and specializing in special education would be a wiser choice. Special education classes are also offered as part of these interdisciplinary programs.
If you decide to pursue a degree in psychology, you can expect to study such topics as psychological principles, psychological science, psychological ethics, psychological career and professional development, psychological assessments, abnormal psychology, and psychological research methods. Introductory courses in clinical, social, developmental, cognitive, and personality psychology are offered to students in these programs to familiarize them with various subfields of psychology. Educational psychology, issues relating to learning disabilities, instructional methods for at-risk students, and theories of reading and the psychology of language acquisition are all possible special education concentrations.
Unless you complete a student-teaching internship as part of your psychology special education bachelor’s degree program, you may not be eligible for certification or licensure as a teacher. To become a certified teacher, you may need to complete a graduate degree program.
A Special Education Program Can Benefit From a Psychology Concentration.
There are special education programs with a focus on psychology, as well as psychology programs with a focus on special education, such as applied behavior analysis, autism studies, and training for intervention specialists. Behaviorism-based Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA, is an approach to treatment that is used to address behavioral issues and to help children learn new skills more effectively. This intervention therapy can be used effectively with children who have special needs after students complete training in the fundamental concepts and principles of behavior analysis, the philosophy of behaviour analysis, behavior assessment and evaluation, behavior change procedures, and ethics in behavior analysis. Special education programs with a focus on ABA may qualify students to pursue board certification.
Understanding human development in both normal and abnormal ways is the goal of psychology. Aspiring special education teachers can take a series of required courses that delve deeper into the psychology of these conditions. Some courses might focus on learning disabilities, such as courses on assessment, teaching techniques for students with mild disabilities, or content area instruction for students with more severe disabilities. Autism spectrum disorder, for example, is a common condition that can be studied in greater depth by students. An autism spectrum disorder concentration will require you to take classes on the characteristics and academic implications of autism; assessment, intervention, inclusive classroom management; advanced topics in autism spectrum disorder research; and research methods for autism spectrum disorder research.
If you’d like to work as an intervention specialist, a special education program with a concentration in that field might be a good fit for you. Instructional needs assessment, cultural diversity in the educational setting and literacy and reading development classes are just a few examples of the types of topics that students may study as part of their coursework. In certification programs, graduates are well-versed in handling students’ behavior ranging from mild to severe.
Some special education programs combine ABA interventions with autism spectrum disorder treatment into a single specialization because ABA interventions are the most commonly used in autism spectrum disorder treatment.