As a psychologist, the special educator is trained to understand the person. But their objective is not to understand the causes of an illness. “We want to foster the patient’s adaptation in their everyday life,” says Mélanie L’Heureux Lapalme, psychoeducator and teacher at Cégep de Montmorency in Special Education Techniques (TES).
In fact, a special educator helps people of all ages and with all kinds of adjustment problems: physical, emotional, intellectual, social, neurological, mental health, addiction, etc.
Help, but how far?
The goal of their work is therefore to support an individual in everyday situations, according to their specific needs. This is so they can integrate with their environment or with people of their age.
But for how long? “In CPE, the mission stops when the child enters school. For the others, it depends on the problems. A disabled person will need help for their whole life,” explains Ms. L’Heureux Lapalme.
What are the challenges?
While special educators are very versatile, it is because they work with a wide range of patients, which leads them to use a wide range of approaches and intervention techniques.
These include the arts, sports, games and technology. “During TES training, courses are given to stimulate creativity. They are shown the different tools to use with the diversity of clientele,” says Ms. L’Heureux Lapalme.
Beyond broad knowledge and a sense of adaptation, the special educator must constantly work on themselves and on their perceptions of their patients. “In education, you are your own work tool,” she says.
In 2015, 44% of educators worked in public or private schools, according to Emploi-Québec. The others can join social services, the health network, public administration, youth centres or community settings.
Like many others in Quebec, the profession is experiencing a major shortage of labour, which has a direct impact on educators’ working conditions. Interns who are still in school help fill the missing hours. The number of follow-ups to be done is increasing. “This creates distress, which has been well documented,” the teacher laments.
The fact that the educator is “their own work tool” is an even greater challenge under these conditions. Mélanie L’Heureux Lapalme reminds us that it is crucial to take care of yourself in order to do your job well.