There is a continuous growth of job opportunities to work with autistic children as Autism Spectrum Disorder is increasingly being recognized and diagnosed worldwide.
Autistic children require professional assistance to carry out their daily activities, which their parents may not be able to fulfill. As such, careers working with autistic kids are the most rewarding as you can see and feel the positive impact on their lives and that of their families through your work.
Besides, they also have a right to education and need support to better their lives. Yes, the jobs may be demanding, but the reward is worth it. So, if you are ready to venture into the field, below are some of the jobs to consider.
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What are the best jobs working with autistic children?
The top 10 careers working with kids with autism include:
1. Special education teacher
Special education teachers are professionals trained to handle students with special needs. They provide developmental, learning, physical and emotional support to autistic kids in an educational setup. They may work with an individual learner or group of learners in a particular subject area or teach general basic skills.
If you opt to pursue this career, you will need a bachelor’s degree in special education and supervised internship or field experience. Some states may also require you to have an endorsement in autism on top of the professional certification to acquire a teaching license.
The median annual salary for special education teachers in the US is $52,737 with the top-paid earning more than $78k a year.
2. Occupational therapist
Occupational therapists help people with special needs, including autistic children, live independently. They offer social, physiological, and emotional assistance to support autistic children in interacting well with the environment. The work may involve assisting autistic kids with basic things such as using the toilet, eating, and writing.
You will require a master’s or doctoral degree in occupational therapy and a state’s licensing to land the opportunity.
The average annual salary for occupational therapists is $86,280. The top earners get more than $123k a year, which makes it one of the highest-paying jobs working with autistic children.
3. Applied Behavior Analyst (ABA)
ABAs are special psychologists trained to help autistic children. They examine the relationship between the environment and a child’s behavior to bring about positive behavioral change.
This is normally done through assessments, development of a behavior intervention plan, monitoring progress, and evaluating the impact of each intervention on a child’s behavior.
Analysts may work one-on-one with autistic kids, in groups, or with families and other therapy teams to help children attain independence.
If you love this career option, you require a master’s degree and a practicing license in clinical psychology. You will also need board certification issued upon successful completion of the ABA course or a doctoral degree in behavioral analysis.
The median annual salary for applied behavior analysts in the US is $65,914, with the best-paid 10% earning more than 80k a year.
4. Speech-Language Pathologist
Many children with autism experience language and communication challenges that require the intervention of a speech-language pathologist (SLPs). Pathologists help kids improve their speech, develop alternative communication methods, and treat cognitive-communication disorders.
SLPs may work in doctors’ offices, schools, or private practices. This career option requires a master’s degree in speech-language pathology, with some states requiring licensing.
The mean annual salary for speech-language pathologists in the US is $85,820. It is one of the highest-paying jobs working with children, with the highest-paid professionals in this field earning more than $125k a year.
5. Social workers
Social workers often work with individuals and families to help them cope with difficult societal situations. As such, they help kids with autism to improve their social and mental functioning.
They also work closely with the kid’s family and therapy team to offer support and ideas on how to help autistic children interact well in social, communal, and professional setups. Basically, social workers bring together the whole therapy team for the child’s benefit.
A degree in a relevant field is enough to land you a job in schools, a supported living environment, or residential care facilities. Other positions require a master’s degree but often pay well.
The average annual salary of social workers is $49,864 per year and the highest-paid gets more than 70k a year.
6. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) specialist
Autism spectrum disorder specialists work in schools serving ASD children to help kids and their therapy team coordinate everyday tasks, social behaviors, and academic goals. Their job is similar to that of applied behavior analysts, except the specialists work in a school setup where they can serve as school therapists or classroom aids.
To get an opportunity in this career field, you will need at least a master’s or a bachelor’s degree in special education, social work, psychology, or humans services. Some employers or states may require further certification in behavior analysis.
The median annual salary for autism spectrum disorder specialists in the US is $59,604. The highest-paid earn more than $89k a year.
7. Rehabilitation therapist
Rehabilitation therapists work with autistic kids in schools, rehab centers, universities, government agencies, or community programs. They assess a child’s ability and boundaries to help them better deal with social and family dynamics.
The main responsibility of the rehabilitation therapist is to help autistic children become physically independent, but they also have to take care of their emotional needs.
To become a rehabilitation therapist, you will need a master’s degree in intellectual or communication disorders-related subjects and professional and state certification.
8. Developmental psychologist
Developmental psychologists work in schools, clinics, or hospitals to evaluate children with autism and recommend interventions, therapies, treatments, and coping mechanisms to teachers, doctors, parents, and other therapy team members.
They help address social cues, self-stimulating behavior, repetitive behavior, social anxiety, depression, and managing work and school relationships among autistic children.
To get a job in this field, you need a doctoral degree in a relevant field and certification in the chosen field. The average yearly pay for developmental psychologists is $67,985, making it one of the best careers working with kids with autism.
9. Art therapist
Many children with autism have speech and language difficulties and find it easier to express themselves through art. As such, they need an art therapist to help them grow their communication skills and confidence through painting and drawing, music, crafts, and drama. These activities also help autistic children interact well with others.
To get the opportunity in the field, you need a master’s degree in your preferred form of art plus components in child psychology and special education.
If you don’t have any formal training and you want to work with autistic children, then consider a job as a nanny. Some employers with autistic children require a nanny with a certificate in early childhood while others do not.
Nanny’s responsibilities include helping children with their everyday tasks, accompanying them to social events, and helping out where needed.
According to Nanny Lane, the average hourly pay for nannies range between $15 and $22. The rates depend on variables such as whether you work part-time, full-time, live-in, live-out, short-term, or long-term. Full-time nannies can earn as high as $47k a year.
Here’s a video of therapists on why they love working with kids with autism. Credit: My Favorite Therapists.
Let’s now have a look at a few frequently asked questions about jobs working with children with autism.
What qualifications do I need to work with kids with autism?
If you want to offer support to autistic children, the best degree to pursue is in psychology, counseling, special education, and child development. These fields help you understand basic human emotions and thoughts as well as how children with autism develop and the challenges they face. Besides, it teaches you how to positively handle any unusual behavior from children with special needs.
What are things I should not do with an autistic child?
Working with autistic children is a demanding job that needs one to be considerate in whatever they do. However, below are the don’ts:
- Don’t bark instructions
- Don’t stare at unusual behavior from the kids
- Don’t talk bad about the child, assuming they can’t hear
- Please resist the urge to use creative language as the child might take it as it is
- Never force the autistic child to maintain eye contact, i.e., be ready to accept the child’s behavior
- Don’t assume autistic children cannot communicate; listen to their verbal and non-verbal gestures.
- Don’t take any behavior from them personally
Is working with autistic kids right for me?
Working with autistic kids is not the right career for many. It is reserved for a few who derive their joy in helping people with special needs. So, jobs working with autistic children might be right for you only if you are naturally compassionate, generous, kind, and caring with a lot of patience, tolerance, and even temperament.
It would be best to also have some sense of humor to help lighten up in difficult moments and the ability to stay calm in chaotic times. However, your intuition plays an important role in whether or not you will manage to work with autistic children. If you opt for any career option in the field, be ready to be optimistic, dedicated, and willing to establish a positive connection with autistic children, their families, and the therapy team, even in challenging situations.
Jobs working with autistic children can be very rewarding as long as you have a heart for them. Consider the careers we have pointed out and pursue the relevant courses to enable you to get an opportunity to help autistic kids, their families, and the institutions that support them.