Pupils with special educational needs often require additional time, patience and support to learn at school. A teaching assistant with special education needs training dedicates their time to assist these children. Working closely with them to ensure they get more out of each lesson.
Dyslexia, Autism, Down Syndrome and other learning disabilities can all make learning more challenging. Through quick thinking and a close bond with each pupil, special educational needs (SEN) teaching assistants minimise these challenges. They will adapt and change the way each lesson is taught. Explaining new concepts in ways they know their pupil will understand, based on how they prefer to learn.
An SEN teaching assistant guides their pupils through their time at school. Helping them to interact with others and build positive relationships. By doing so, they familiarise other pupils with SEN children and encourage an inclusive environment.
As an SEN teaching assistant, the work you do is undeniably valuable. You identify the individual needs of each child, assisting them both inside and outside the classroom. You’ll take charge of behaviour management, communication, personal care, physical assistance and any other tasks that may be required.
Together with the teacher, you create a safe, stimulating and supportive learning environment. You’ll work closely with many children, gaining their trust and getting to know each individually. Recognising and appreciating their unique personalities and working hard to make school a positive and rewarding experience.
The Role Day to Day
While your responsibilities are determined by your pupils’ needs, generally you will:
- Prepare learning resources
- Support schoolwork under the supervision of a teacher
- Implement individual education, social, behavioural and personal care programmes
- Help children understand instructions by repetition, re-phrasing and demonstration
- Adapt conventional teaching methods to meet the individual needs of pupils
- Encourage children’s confidence, self-esteem, independence and communication
- Recognise signs of distress and offer reassurance
- Safeguard their physical, social and emotional welfare
- Attend to their physical needs
- Provide feedback to teachers and parents
- Complete records
- Assist teachers
You’ll adapt the curriculum to the learning styles of each child. By tailoring lessons, you help them to progress at a comfortable pace. Allowing them to learn and gain value from their school experience. Which increases the chances of them becoming more confident and independent in life.
If you assist one child full-time, you’ll act as a point of contact for both parents and teachers. Communicating triumphs and setbacks with their wider support network. So, everyone is on the same page and replicating successful learning strategies outside the classroom. Giving your pupil the best possible chance of success.
Typically, you’ll find employment opportunities in mainstream schools. Whether it is in the classrooms or within specialist units. SEN teaching assistants also work in special schools where support is provided to children with severe or complex special educational needs.
Generally, as with most teaching assistant roles, you’ll work during school hours Monday to Friday. Though if you work within a special school, some of these are residential. So, you may be required to work evenings and weekends.
Salaries on offer are usually between £12,000 to £23,000 per year. With higher wages being offered to those with further training and experience.
Many schools will give you access to specific training like the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) courses. Or courses dedicated to conditions like Dyslexia or Autism.
As you gain experience you may take a course to become a higher-level teaching assistant (HLTA). Or you could take further studies to become a fully qualified special educational needs or mainstream teacher.
Qualities of an SEN Teaching Assistant
As with all teaching roles, you need to be calm and have patience. This and the ability to work well with children is essential. But there are wider skills and personality traits that are important when working with children with special educational needs.
You must be in tune with the children you work with. How well you know a pupil can be the difference in a positive or negative experience. Recognising signs of frustration can help you change the situation before problems arise. Failing to notice could make things worse.
Kindness, sensitivity and understanding are essential. What may be possible one day may not be the next. You must respond to every situation positively and continue to work through challenges as they arise.
You’ll be flexible and open to change, taking the initiative where required and have excellent problem-solving skills. Behaviour management is also beneficial as you have to be comfortable handling confrontation and challenging behaviour.
Additional skills like British Sign Language or Makaton can also be highly desirable to schools and helpful to your work.
How to Become a Special Educational Needs Teaching Assistant
As you may be working with children and vulnerable adults, you’ll be required to pass enhanced background checks.
If you aim to work with pupils with hearing-impairments, you’ll likely need the relevant communication qualifications too. Check this before applying to your preferred school.
Outside of this, you need to gain a relevant qualification to work as a special educational needs teaching assistant. If you’re already a qualified teaching assistant, you can take additional courses to gain the specific knowledge required. Otherwise, you can take particular courses that provide everything you need.
A Level 3 Diploma in Supporting Teaching and Learning is a course that does just that. It qualifies you as a teaching assistant who can also provide specialist support.
You’ll learn about the rights of disabled children and young people, plus those with special educational needs. Through the different modules studied, you’ll develop skills that help you work effectively in a specialist support role. Understanding the different requirements of those with emotional, behavioural, social development, sensory and/or physical needs.
As part of this course, you’ll complete a work placement in an education setting. This helps you get hands-on experience, which is often required by most employers. A placement allows you to gain confidence in the classroom and apply what you’ve learnt in the real world.
Once qualified, you’ll be eligible for support positions in nurseries, infant or junior schools, special, secondary or independent schools.
There is also potential to study a foundation degree at university. Giving you the opportunity to become a teacher later on, should that be your goal.
Awarded by the NCFE and recognised by Ofqual, it demonstrates a high standard of education to potential future employers.
Stonebridge Associated Colleges is a leading UK distance learning provider. Meaning you can study this diploma online, from home, around your current commitments.
If you’re looking to make this career change, you can gain the ability to do so with this diploma.
Enrol online today and make your goal a reality.