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Careers in Caring for Mentally Challenged Children

There are a wide range of careers available to persons seeking to work with and care for mentally challenged children. Careers are available for workers holding a minimum of a high school degree and for those who have completed graduate level programs. Though careers working with mentally challenged children often prove demanding, it can also be a very rewarding career choice.

Occupational Therapist

Occupational therapists create a modified classroom environment, provide therapy and assistance in the classroom, in small groups or individually, work with children on completing daily living tasks and provide early intervention services for babies and toddlers. Occupational therapists are often employed by a school or school board or work at rehabilitation centers or in private practice. Occupational therapists hold a minimum of a master's degree and must pass a national certification examination. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary of occupational therapists working in schools was $60,020 in 2008.

Psychologist

Psychologists perform intelligence testing, work to diagnose any specific conditions and help children understand and cope with their behaviors, feelings and diagnosed condition. Most often school psychologists and clinical child psychologists are the ones who care for mentally challenged children and most hold a doctorate level degree in psychology, though a specialist's degree or master's degree is often acceptable for school psychologists, according to the BLS website. In 2008, the median income for clinical psychologists and school psychologists was $64,100 a year.

Speech-Language Pathologist

Speech-language pathologists help children produce sounds correctly, understand language, assist with cognitive skills in memory, attention and problem solving and teach swallowing skills. While some speech-language pathologists who work with mentally challenged children are self-employed or work in medical centers, most work at schools, either in an office or in the classroom. Most speech-language pathologists hold a master's degree, though there are doctoral level programs available as well. As of 2008, the BLS reports that the median annual salary for speech-language pathologists working in a school setting was $58,140.

Teacher

Special education teachers create and implement lessons that are developmentally appropriate for mentally challenged children. Often special education teachers work with a wide range of student abilities and levels and they must be able to adapt lessons for each student. Special education teachers often work in a classroom setting but they may also work with small groups of students or individually with a child. Special education teachers must hold a minimum of a bachelor's degree; masters and doctoral level programs are also available. The BLS reports that special education teachers working with elementary students made a median salary of $50,020 in 2008. Those working in middle schools received a median income of $50,810 while special education teachers at the high school level received a median salary of $51,340.

Teacher Assistant

Teacher assistants support the teacher in completing classroom tasks such as grading papers and making copies and most assistants who work with mentally challenged children also work directly with one or more students to aid in classroom behavior, daily living skills and any other areas in which the child may need extra assistance. Most assistant positions require a high school diploma, though some positions may require college coursework or extra training. According to the BLS, the median annual salary for a teacher assistant was $22,200 in 2008.



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