Special education teachers work with children both in and outside of classrooms.
Their role is to enable students with learning disabilities to develop the skills needed to learn alongside their non-disabled peers as much as possible. At the preschool level, these teachers are known as Special Education Teacher Support Services (SETSS) providers. At the K–12 level, these instructors are called Special Education Itinerant Teachers, or SEITs (pronounced like “see it”).
Education and Licensure
Both SETSS and SEIT providers must hold a bachelor’s degree or above from an accredited college or university. They must also have a teaching certificate and state license in special education that is typically focused on particular developmental levels, such as early childhood, elementary, or adolescent. In addition, these teachers must pass the same state-mandated assessments as all other teachers in topics like “literacy assessment,” “students with disabilities content assessment,” “educating all students assessment,” and so on. Finally, they often must also fulfill an internship or student-teaching requirement.
Some SETSS/SEIT providers are classroom teachers who do additional coursework and a certification exam before applying for the SETSS/SEIT certification. Others are trained in special education throughout their degree programs. Both pathways produce professionals who are knowledgeable in special education, as they will have taken coursework in special education theory and practice, human development, literacy skills, assessment, and specific academic content areas.
Follow this link to discover colleges with majors in special education instruction and graduate education programs with a focus on special education.
Work and Settings
SETSS/SEIT providers work with students who have learning and attentional disabilities or needs, those with speech and language delays, and those with motor delays. SETSS/SEIT providers have two primary general functions:
- To assist students in learning what is taking place in the classroom by helping to develop their cognitive and academic skills (known as providing “direct services”)
- To consult with classroom teachers and other professionals on how best to support a child with a learning disability (known as providing “indirect services”)
The “itinerant” part of the SEIT acronym refers to the fact that these specialists move around — often physically, but also within the content and skills they focus on with their students. In this way, SETSS/SEIT providers are flexible in what they work on each day, with the child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) dictating the focus. SETSS/SEIT providers may work with children individually or in small groups, depending on each student’s IEP requirements.
Through these supports, though, students who learn slowly or require repetition are more likely to be able to remain in a Least Restrictive Environment, or general education classroom.
SETSS/SEIT providers work with children for a minimum of three hours per week, and their services may not exceed 50 percent of a child’s school day. If a student requires more than this level of support, additional services or classroom settings may be considered.
Questions to Ask a SETSS/SEIT Provider
When you meet with your child’s SETSS/SEIT provider, there are several key questions that you’ll want to ask:
- What worked well today? What was challenging for my child?
- What new skills did you work on together?
- How can I help my child become more independent with (name a particular skill)?
Further Reading: Other Members of the Team
Your child may work with other specialists beyond her SETSS/SEIT provider. Find out more about the other members of your child’s support team by reading these comprehensive articles:
- Speech-Language Pathologists
- Occupational Therapists
- Physical Therapists
- Assistive Technologists
Office of Teaching Initiatives. (2014). Certification. Retrieved from New York State Education Department.
United Federation of Teachers. Special Education Teacher Support Services. Retrieved from United Federation of Teachers.