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special education vs. clinical psychology – pros and cons ???

pls enlighten me… i am a psychology graduate, seeking for greener pastures. torn between special education and clinical psychology. i like the latter, but the career development here is minimal. unlike sped which is booming all over the world. Thus, i’ll be able to help more kids. what do you say???

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If pysch is your love, there are ways to bring that training into the educational system. A master’s in developmental psych or a master’s certificate in either autism in the class, classroom behaivor management for special needs or applied behavioral analysis would allow you to work with special needs students ina more clinacal way. You can also complete a clinical psych degree and focus in on reserach or working with families and children with a wide range of disabilities. Finally, there is the “next frontier” of psych which is infant psych. This concentration wsa developed to try to understand the developmental milestones and impact of missing them in children under three…esepcially important as 18-24 months is the average age for a child diagnosed with autism. We know that intenstive therapies early on can make a huge difference with these kids, but very few have more than a basic idea of what they should be, so an entirely new field is being developed to address the need.

Elizabeth S
I agree with the others and stick with the psychology. Yes, sped is a booming field and the demand of consultants will increase dramatically as students are more complex. Demanding parents (I mean that in a good and bad sense.) will increase the number of consultants in the classroom.

The higher end of special education is becoming the dumping ground in alot of areas. If they can’t do what the other kids are doing in a regular ed. classroom with accomodations then where else to go? This year I had a sex offender (since the age of 12) with an full scale of 55 and no other areas of need in the same class as severe MR student with a hearing impairment, diapers, and pic syms/survival sign language for communication. Then we also has two students who ran -preferrably into a busy intersection nearby- and another student who was 6’2 and bit when he had a meltdown. It was a nightmare and the situation next year will be worse….in the same class a student will be working toward “awareness,” a young lady who strips when she’s mad or turned on and the class size is going from 8 to 15. While I had a lot to deal with, it’s not uncommon for veteran teachers to have to deal with the most difficult of students [or parents who have filed grievances/ lawsuits].

Be the clinician/consultant: review information, give ideas, set up documentation and then run for greener pastures.


Consider going with Applied Behavior Analysis. It is an up and coming field and gives you tons of things to do after you graduate. If you are empirical and highly analytical you will love it. I could never get with psychology because it was a bit nebulous for me, but I have fallen in love with ABA. Far from being dry and mechanical, I work with wonderful children every day and create behavior changes that impact their lives. I only wish Ihad discovered it when I was younger. Check out Southwest Florida College. They have the Master’s.

I think that you should go with the one that would make you happier, clinical psychology. You can take extra trainings gearing your practice towards special needs children in the private sector. This is a great need for these children, too.

5 years ago
Pro: they can be very loving and sweet children Con: it can be very frustrating at times.

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