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Make a Difference As an Alternatively Certified Intervention Specialist for Children With Moderate and Severe Disabilities (MSD)


As more and more children qualify for special education services, teachers who are qualified to work with students with moderate and severe disabilities are needed more than ever. Intervention specialists can help students with a wide range of disabilities build on their strengths and overcome barriers to academic and personal success.

Students with moderate and severe disabilities (MSD) are characterized by what the European Educational Research Journal defines as "significant limitations both in intellectual functioning and in adaptive behavior as expressed in conceptual, social, and practical adaptive skills." In addition, individuals with MSD may require broader educational perspectives and advanced pedagogical instructional techniques. Intervention specialists are best equipped to assess, instruct and support students with these needs.

Early Intervention Is Key

Special education (SPED) teachers who are specially trained in MSD instruction are uniquely suited to serve as intervention specialists who can identify moderate and severe disabilities early in life and intervene while students are still in foundational learning stages. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), early intervention is best, as neural circuits are most adaptable in earlier developmental stages. SPED educators specializing in MSD instruction are educated in identifying moderate and severe disabilities in students as early as possible and then arranging for intervention plans.

Adaptive Technologies

Intervention specialists who specialize in MSD instruction are well-versed in adaptive technologies that can help remove barriers to student success.

A 2013 study published in the Universal Journal of Educational Research highlights the role that assistive technologies play in helping "students with special needs develop independent thinking skills, maintain self-reliance, increase autonomy, develop problem-solving skills, facilitate a sense of continuity in living conditions as much as possible, and become more actively involved in their educational activities at home, schools and communities."

Today's adaptive technologies range from low-tech items, such as graphic organizers to help students with intellectual disabilities stay on task, to high-tech speech-to-text software that allows students with impaired motor functions to keep up with lessons and communicate their thoughts. The world of adaptive technology is rapidly growing, and a wealth of both low-tech and high-tech technologies are available to students of all abilities.

Educators must provide students with MSD access to the technologies they need to succeed inside and outside the classroom. Special education teachers who specialize in MSD instruction are not only well versed in these technologies, but they also have unique insight into their different uses, ensuring each student receives individualized interventions that help them succeed.

Transition Planning

Technology is but a small part of each student's intervention plan. Intervention specialists who focus on MSD education work with a team of faculty and family members to ensure students achieve their personal and academic goals, and have opportunities to become independent adults.

Helping students with MSD decide what they want to do after school and preparing for those goals are central to special education. Self-determination calls for students becoming actively engaged in making decisions about their lives. It involves the development of personal skills, which is a critical aspect of transition planning. Students with moderate and severe disabilities need support in preparing to become self-determined and independent adults. Therefore, intervention specialists who work with children with MSD are experts in transition planning that is individually tailored to meet each student's needs.

Understood explains how transition planning involves more than simply academic planning. It also involves skills for life, jobs and community involvement. These goals can be overwhelming for students and families to plan and prepare for on their own, so intervention specialists who work with students with MSD offer vital support in all aspects of goal setting, planning and preparing students.

Advanced Training in Special Education

To help students set appropriate goals and achieve them, special education teachers of students with MSD play a central role in facilitating and communicating with each student's network. Skilled intervention specialists have the communicative and collaborative abilities to work with children's teachers, administrators family members and agency personnel, building a network of support that extends beyond the classroom.

Advanced training in special education can give professionals the tools to propel their careers. Northern Kentucky University offers an alternative online special education certification for career changers, as well as an online program for certified teachers. Both online programs focus specifically on teaching individuals with MSD. The programs are beneficial for educators who want to work in the state of Kentucky.

There is no question that intervention specialists make a tremendous difference in the lives of students with disabilities. Children with moderate to severe disabilities require a unique blend of research-based knowledge, problem-solving support and communication skills. As a result, you can become uniquely qualified to assess, instruct and support students to go on to live fulfilling lives as adults.

Learn more about Northern Kentucky University's Alternative Certification in Special Education – Moderate & Severe Disabilities online program.


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