There are no online associate's degree programs specifically for special education teacher's aides. Associate's degree programs in early childhood education are the most common training programs for this career. These programs are typically offered through a division of a school's education department. Programs do not focus solely on special education classrooms, but rather include courses on working with special needs children.
Courses in child development, the importance of play, family relationships, and curriculum development are part of the 2-year associate's degree program in early childhood education. The degree can't be completed totally online; students must gain experience in a real classroom through a practicum, though the rest of the curriculum can be done through distance learning.
Employment as a teacher's aide usually requires a high-school diploma and experience, but some higher-level or public schools may require a 2-year degree. Many states require that instructional aides who work with special needs students pass a skills test.
Associate's in Science - Early Childhood Education
Students in these programs learn how to manage classrooms and assist teachers with planned curricula for both special and regular classrooms. Early childhood education certificate programs are also available online and provide similar training for future special education teacher's aides.
Program Information and Requirements
Early childhood education associate's degree programs require two years of study. Students must complete general education coursework in the humanities and sciences, as well as early childhood education classes.
Classes specific to working in an early childhood classroom provide instruction in the emotional and physical health needs and teaching techniques for young children, including those with special needs. Most programs require a minimum of a 3-credit hour practicum at a local school or childcare facility.
Students in online early childhood education associate's degree programs learn how to assist teachers with planning and teaching a curriculum for young children. Identifying, handling, and managing the instruction of special needs children is commonly addressed in these programs. Additionally, most programs require that students be proficient in computer usage and complete a course on the use of technology in special education classrooms.
This course provides an introduction to the general principles of psychology, including human behavior, learning, perception, emotion, and mental health. The stages of life and mood disorders are also discussed.
Students in this course learn the challenges and difficulties faced by children with emotional or behavioral disorders. Identifying and managing these disabilities in a learning environment are discussed, as well as the legal aspects of teaching special needs children.
Development of the Young Child
Early childhood education students will learn the timing and proper growth of the health, safety, nutrition, social, and emotional development of children. Instruction includes identifying and managing the development of gifted or developmentally disabled children. Topics covered in this course include facilitation of friendships, management of separation anxiety, and identification of emotional problems.
Families, Schools and Community Relations
Students will gain instruction on the issues and topics currently facing schools and communities. Students learn the management and communication techniques used in developing relationships between parents, schools, and society. Special focus is given to the affect and handling of cultural differences in the classroom.
This course describes the behavior and management of children who have suffered a trauma, as well as those with attention deficit disorder (ADD), Asperger's syndrome, autism, or aggression disorders. Students learn how to identify and teach children affected by these problems. This course may be separated into multiple classes.
Graduates of an early childhood education associate's degree program can work as a teacher's aide in a regular or special needs classroom. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that in 2015, teacher assistants earned an average annual salary of $26,550, with schools typically paying slightly more to teaching assistants who specialize in special education. (www.bls.gov). The BLS notes that employment opportunities for teacher assistants are expected to increase 6% over the 2014-2024 decade.
Continuing Education Information
Some states require training and certification prior to working as a teacher's aide in any classroom. The American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association contain paraprofessional divisions that detail required or voluntary certifications for paraprofessionals, a grouping that includes teacher's aides (www.aft.org).
Students may also choose to continue their education and earn a bachelor's degree in early childhood or special education. A bachelor's degree, such as the Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Early Childhood Education, requires four years of study, two of which are dedicated to general education courses. Some or all courses completed in pursuit of an associate's degree may be transferable to a 4-year institution.
Associate's degree programs in special education are not typically available online. However, an online degree program in early childhood education is available and teaches many of the same skills as a special education degree.