Special Needs Assistant

By Mariza Halliday - Last update

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What is Special Needs Assistance?

The role of a Special Needs Assistant is to provide guidance and support for students with special needs and disabilities. Special Needs Assistants will assist teachers and help to ensure that children with additional needs can gain access to all areas.

Special Needs Assistants can work at mainstream schools or dedicated special needs schools and will work under the supervision of the classroom teacher or school principal.

What courses are available?

Universities and colleges in Ireland are offering courses in the following subject areas:

  • Special Needs Assistant (SNA) Course Level 6 – The study of the skills, knowledge, and competence required to work with children with special needs in a classroom setting.
  • Certificate in Autism Awareness – The study of the skills to effectively work with a child with autism in a school, home, or social environment.
  • Certificate in Deaf Awareness – The study of the range of communication tactics used in communicating with real people.
  • Challenging Behaviour – The study of understanding the causes of behavior, developing regulation skills, de-escalation, and redirection strategies.
  • Childcare And Special Need Assistant – The study of the practices and foundations of childcare and special needs assistants.
  • Children With Additional Needs – The study of the support needed to ensure children are fully included and integrated with a variety of care and educational environments.
  • Classroom Assistant/Special Needs Assistant – The understanding of special needs, human growth, and development, intellectual disability studies, creative arts for early childhood, and communications.
  • Communication Strategies For Non-Verbal Children – The study of the inability to effectively communicate and augmentative and alternative communication.
  • Coping With Challenging Behaviours – The study of challenging behaviors and the factors that can create challenging behaviors.
  • Education: Special Education – The study of Special Education for Learning Support teachers, Resource Teachers, LS/RT’s, teachers in Special Schools.
  • Intellectual Disability Care – The study of key concepts in intellectual disability.
  • Learning Disability Awareness – The study of learning disabilities and neurological conditions.

Studying Special Needs Assistance in college

Special Needs Assistant courses are aimed at equipping the learner with the skills, knowledge, and competence required to work with children in a classroom setting and as such a large part of the courses is work experience. Through work experience, you will gain hands-on experience to better understand the theory work of everyday tasks.

Work Experience takes place under the direction of a qualified teacher and you will learn to work as part of the multidisciplinary team.

Career options

After completing a course in Special Needs Assistance you will have several career paths available to pursue so that you can make an impact and a difference in people’s lives.

Careers in Special Needs assistant are in high demand and many facilities and families are looking for excellent assistants with the capacity and skills to work hard and support people with special needs in all aspects of their lives.

Related jobs include:

  • Special education teacher
  • Social worker
  • Occupational therapist
  • Developmental psychologist
  • School counselor
  • Applied behavior analyst
  • Speech-language pathologist
  • Sign language interpreter

Further study

After completing a course in Special Needs Assistance you may choose to pursue further study in a specialist field to add to your skill base for greater opportunities in your career. Taking additional therapy courses could be helpful and an excellent way to work on your compassion, sensitivity, empathy, and most importantly different approaches to communication and opening up dialogue.

Further training courses on First Aid will be very beneficial as some individuals with special needs may also have medical needs that you may need to handle if an incident in your care occurs. Having First Aid and CPR training is advisable if you would like to follow a career in this field.


Are there any particular qualities you need to study Special Needs Assistance?

While there are many different jobs you can have working with people with special needs, there are some core skills and qualities that successful people in all of those careers have in common. 

As a person working with special needs, you need to have a high level of patience and an understanding that people with special needs often do, learn and communicate things differently.

You will need to have an open mind, be flexible and adaptable to change at short notice, and be willing to think creatively. People with special needs often approach things differently and you may need to come up with out-of-the-box ideas and use innovative thinking to ensure everyone’s needs are met.

What does a typical day of a Special Needs Assistant look like?

On a typical day, a Special Needs Assistant will assist the teacher to prepare classroom materials, assist children and provide support as needed, and ensure that the physical, social and emotional needs of the children are met.

Special Needs Assistants will work with the children both inside and outside the classroom as they are required and will assist children with hygiene needs such as going to the bathroom, clothing, feeding, and other general hygiene as needed.

Where can I study Special Needs Assistance?

Explore your options here

Did You Know?

· Over a billion people live with some form of disability which is roughly 15% of the world’s population.

· More boys than girls are being diagnosed with learning disabilities. Nearly four times as many boys are diagnosed with learning disabilities, but that doesn’t mean that there’s a gender discrepancy in having a learning disability. It’s just that many girls are going unidentified or untreated for their LD.

· While people are aware of learning disabilities, they aren’t very familiar with the details. Surveys have found that 90% of respondents could identify dyslexia as a learning disability, and 80% could correctly define it, but most were far less familiar with other types like dysgraphia, dyscalculia, and dyspraxia.

· All children are different even if they have the same diagnosis. The greatest obstacles that children and adults with disabilities face are old attitudes and perceptions. They need friendships, inclusion into all community activities and opportunities for success, and living real lives as part of our community.

Mariza Halliday



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