Developmental Services Worker / Special Needs

What to expect from a career in Developmental Services

Physical, mental and intellectual developmental disabilities can affect people of all ages. Developmental services workers (DSW) and special needs professionals work with those who have these disabilities to help them function better in the classroom, at work and in their day-to-day lives. Ontario college developmental services worker and special needs programs provide students with the knowledge and practical experience to work in this challenging but rewarding field.

If you’re interested in working with and enhancing the lives of people with various disabilities through a career in developmental services or in special needs, here’s what you need to know.

Developmental Services Worker and Special Needs Courses

Students in special needs and developmental services worker programs at Ontario colleges will gain strong interpersonal and time management skills that will help them adapt to the difficult and demanding situations they will face in their careers. Courses will focus on learning to design case-specific plans and to provide support to children and adults where they need it – in educational institutions, out in the community and at home.

Developmental disabilities and special needs courses will also teach students about the different types of disabilities. Subjects could include (but aren’t limited to):

  • Influential social factors (abuse, poverty, etc.)
  • Education support processes
  • Crisis intervention
  • Pharmacology
  • Counselling and interview skills

Field observations and placements are a vital part of these programs, giving students firsthand experience on how to professionally and successfully react and manage individual needs.

General Developmental Services Worker and Special Needs Program Requirements

Entry-level Ontario college DSW and special needs programs require an Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) or equivalent, which includes a grade 12 English credit.

Requirements for post-graduate level developmental services programs typically include a post-secondary diploma or degree, volunteer, work or placement hours in the field and other specific post-secondary courses.

Immunizations, CPR and First Aid are common requirements for all types of programs. Be sure to check individual program requirements carefully.

Developmental Services Worker and Special Needs Jobs and Salaries

Special needs and developmental services worker jobs are found in a variety of educational and community organizations, including group homes, schools and community programs. Responsibilities will generally include counselling, education, recreation, inclusion techniques and other support practices to assist people with disabilities.

Graduates of special needs and developmental services worker programs are also eligible to transfer into degree programs when they complete their diploma.

Starting salary ranges for DSWs and special needs assistants are in the low- to mid-$30,000 range. Professionals who further their education could receive higher salaries.

Ontario Colleges Offering Developmental Services Worker and Special Needs Programs

Use the left-column navigation to refine your search by College, Program Availability, Program Start Date and more, or see the table below for a complete list of developmental services worker and special needs programs at Ontario colleges.

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