professional Special Needs School for volunteers with specialist interest in special needs

  • Special Needs School that is well led with qualified staff and good facilties
  • An opportunity for volunteers looking to work with children and adults with special needs
  • Experienced staff are welcome to lead approved programmes
  • Located in Puerto Vallarta, surrounded by wonderful beaches Mexican culture

Project summary

This special needs school operates under excellent leadership that has secured funding and support from local government to provide a level of facilities and staff expertise that is rare in Mexico. The school aims to follow the State curriculum, adapted to suit the needs of the children. Currently it has supports c.50 children who come for schooling with a variety of disabilities, from Downs Syndrome, to autism and deafness.

Another 15 young adults aged 16-25 years old attend workshops designed to teach skills that will enable them to get work in the community, such as handicrafts, laying tables in the restaurants or even working in car washes. This is an excellent but rare initiative in countries such as Mexico.

The school has a kindergarten facility, so caters for children from the age of one upwards, with 5-10 children in each age group. The nature of their special needs mean the staff are always stretched and the help of volunteers provides more capacity for staff, and a higher level of engagement with the children.

This special needs school would be ideal for less experienced volunteers wanting to gain experience working with children with special needs, learning alongside qualified professionals.

Experienced professionals would be very welcome for the difference skills, experiences and practices they can bring, but would only be able to lead programmes after having them reviewed and signed off locally. The procedure for doing this takes 15 days, so this would be suitable for volunteers staying at least 2 months.

Volunteer roles and responsibilities

Volunteers at the special needs school assist the permanent staff with a wide range of activities, including classroom learning, structured and unstructured play, supervising activities, facilitating excursions such as swimming, teaching English, basic arts and crafts, and helping with games.

These activities are normally undertaken as whole class activities with volunteers usefully providing more individual support and supervision to the children. If volunteers have any experience working with autistic children and special needs children, then they will be of particular help. Qualified physiotherapists, OTs and art therapists would be able to work more autonomously, after approval of any programme they wish to deliver.

This is an important project and has proved to be particularly rewarding to patient, dedicated volunteers. As with many volunteer projects, your enthusiasm and interests will be the deciding factor of how much you become involved in the multiple activities of the school.

How you can make a difference

Volunteers help improve the ratio of staff to students, meaning each child and young adult gets that bit more time, care and attention, whether to play or learn through activities and therapy. The fresh energy of volunteers can have a significant impact in this way, augmenting the solid long term care of local staff. In a society that has a prejudice against those with disabilities and special needs, the interest and engagement of volunteers helps support the self-esteem of this group of individuals.

What is distinctive about this project:

This is a rare opportunity to contribute to a well-organised special needs school in Mexico, conveniently located in a pleasant, readily accessible part of Puerto Vallarta.

Blue Tiger Features:

This is a project where you may be the only volunteer at the school, working alongside Spanish speaking professional staff and living with a host family, so it is key that you have a strong interest in the subject and the confidence and open-mindedness to enjoy the independent opportunity this placement offers. It is a cultural opportunity, as well as an opportunity for you to really make a difference to the young children.


The project is open during the usual school term time.


The project supervisors and administrators are all Mexican, so Spanish is a requirement.

Experience required:

Volunteers with no experience of special needs can support this project, although it is anticipated that applicants will have a strong interest in working with children with disabilities or special needs as a career choice perhaps. Those volunteers who are part qualified, newly qualified or experienced as a therapist can make a significant impact on this project and their engagement is particularly welcome.

Good to know:

Puerto Vallarta enjoys more than 300 days a year of sunshine with an average temperature of 25 degrees C, which can make for warm working conditions but explains why Puerto Vallarta is a popular tourist destination for those attracted by the beach, water sports, nightlife and culture.

Price table

4 weeks8 weeks12 weeks16 weeks20 weeks6 months

Includes: Comprehensive travel insurance (supplements may apply to older travellers). Accommodation, food, airport transfer, travel to projects, in-country support, excursion. One week of 121 tuition in a small group.
Excludes: Flights, visas, vaccinations

Things to see and do

  • Whale watching
  • Beaches
  • The Old Town

Country co-ordinator

Greta Ruiz

Greta lives close to our project base in Puerto Vallarta and has been working with us since 2006. She lived in London for three years where she completed her MSc in veterinary science. In addition to supporting our volunteers she now works as a Pilates instructor. She is brilliantly organised and works relentlessly to improve our programmes and offer support to the Mexico volunteers.

About Mexico