Special needs caregivers provide care to people with disabilities who are unable to perform common daily tasks. Being a caregiver for a person with special needs requires a lot of patience and strength. Here’s more about the skills and qualifications you need to become a special needs CDPAP caregiver.

What Does a Special Needs Caregiver Do?

Special needs caregivers work with children and adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities, for example, autism, Down syndrome, or traumatic brain injury. Personalized caregiver support allows people with disabilities to live with as few limitations as possible.

Below, we list the most common tasks of a special needs caregiver.

Tasks of a Special Needs Caregiver

As a caregiver working with special needs individuals, you will typically be required to perform the following tasks:


Some people with special needs have impaired mobility, which makes them dependent on a caregiver for feeding. As a caregiver, you will have to ensure feeding safety to prevent aspiration pneumonia induced by choking and other complications. In addition, creating a positive experience around feeding is essential for improving the patient’s quality of life.

Personal care

Special needs caregivers often have to assist patients in meeting their personal care needs. Tasks may include bathing, grooming, oral hygiene, and getting dressed. 

Assistance with the bathroom

People with special needs who have reduced mobility may require a caregiver’s assistance with using the bathroom and cleaning up after themselves.


Special needs caregivers are expected to help with cleaning, doing the laundry, changing bed sheets, washing dishes, dusting, and other housekeeping tasks.

Manage meals

One of your responsibilities as a caregiver for a person with a disability will be to plan for, prepare, and cook meals. It is important that the food you prepare is tasty, nutritious, and easy to digest. You will also have to make sure to accommodate your patient’s dietary restrictions, allergies, and preferences. Other responsibilities include doing grocery shopping and cleaning up after meals.


Companionship is one of the most beneficial things you can provide as a special needs caregiver. You may also need to plan for fun activities such as playing games, reading books, participating in events, or simply taking a walk together. These activities will make your patient’s day engaged and fulfilling and help them feel less isolated. 

Administer medication

Special needs caregivers are involved in the medical needs of their patients. You need to be aware of the medication schedules, administer medicines as prescribed, oversee prescriptions, and pick up orders. In addition, you should check on the patient’s medication supply regularly and take note of any side effects.

Skills Needed To Be a Special Needs Caregiver

Taking care of a patient with special needs is a challenging job that requires a set of specific skills, such as patience, compassion, empathy, and dependability. 

Communication skills

As a caregiver, you must have strong communication skills. You have to be able to listen to the patient and speak to them clearly. If your patient has difficulties communicating, you might have to reach out to family members, friends, neighbors, or health care providers to discuss their health issues and care.


Good caregivers must have the patience to deal with behavioral challenges of people with disabilities such as temper tantrums, aggression, or self-harm behaviors. 


As a caregiver for a person with special needs, you will need to show empathy and compassion to make your patient feel safe and understood. It is essential to remain positive and encouraging in your attitude and approach to caregiving. 

Time management

Time management is another common skill required from a special needs caregiver. Despite the disability, your patient may still be involved in a community, meet friends, and attend events. You may need to help with the organization and logistics of these activities, in addition to establishing daily routines and schedules.

Physical capability

Typical caregiving tasks like housekeeping, carrying groceries, and assisting patients with mobility require a lot of physical strength. As a special needs caregiver, you will often be on your feet throughout the day. Having physical strength and stamina is indispensable for maintaining your own health and avoiding injury.

Qualifications To Be a Special Needs Caregiver


Special needs caregivers must have a minimum of a high school diploma or GED. Some employers may also require a college degree in behavioral studies, social work, counseling, or other related fields.

Physical exam

A physical exam serves as proof that you’re in good health. It shows that you will be able to perform the duties expected of a special needs caregiver.

Background check

Special needs caregivers must complete a background check and provide professional references showing their ability to perform caregiving tasks. Apart from the criminal record, your employee may also do a background check of your employment history, credit history, as well as your driving record.

CPR and first aid

Special needs caregivers are not expected to provide complex medical care. However, you should be able to perform first-aid procedures, such as CPR, the Heimlich maneuver, and wound treatment.

Direct Support Professionals (DSP) certification

Some employers require special needs caregivers to pass a Direct Support Professionals exam administered by the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP). 

Experience working with people with special needs

Previous experience in caring for children and adults with special needs is always an advantage when working with individuals with disabilities. Many caregiving tasks, such as feeding, personal care, and administering medications are perfected through practice.

Now that we’ve seen what skills and qualifications are needed to become a caregiver for a patient with special needs, let’s have a look at the typical caregiver salary.

Special Needs Caregiver Salary

Your salary as a special needs caregiver will depend on your skill level, experience, and location. In 2021, home health and personal care aides and workers in related professions earned an average of $12-$14 per hour. This means that an annual salary of a special needs caregiver is between $26,000 and $28,000.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *