It’s probably easy to guess what a special needs assistant does – the clue is in the name! Special needs assistants, or SNAs, assist in the care of pupils with special needs. SNAs offer support to children with disabilities. They work under the guidance of the school principal and the class teacher.
Why do it?
Special Needs Assisting is a rewarding career. However, you’ll need to love working with children as well as have a genuine desire to work with children with special needs.
Although SNAs work in classrooms, theirs is a non-teaching role. This means that they help children with special needs to work and socialise in the company of other children. The aim is to foster inclusivity.
SNAs also support and assist the class teacher. Firstly, this involves in carrying out a number of duties and routine tasks. These may include escorting groups of children to areas outside the classroom, preparing and tidying classrooms, and assisting children boarding and alighting from buses. In addition, SNAs support teaching by helping special needs pupils to access to all areas of the curriculum, including PE and IT. SNAs help their charges to learn independently and improve their academic performance.
Finally, SNAs assist children with their physical needs. This may involve clothing, feeding, toileting and general hygiene.
Most SNAs start by doing a short course in special needs assistant training. These last between 10 weeks to 3 months. Classroom-based courses generally require students to attend one day or evening per week. In addition, distance learning and blended learning options are available. They cover topics such as relating to children with special needs and SNA skills.
Students need to have a Level 4 Certificate or Leaving Certificate and/or relevant work and life experiences to enroll. To obtain the QQI Level 5 Certificate, students will also need to complete a work placement module.
It is also possible to do longer, one-year courses, such as the QQI Level 5 in Early Childhood Care & Education. These courses prepare students to work in childcare and crèche supervision and management. These courses cover topics such as:
- School age childcare
- Child development
- Children with additional needs
- Early care and education practice
- Early childhood education and play
- Child health and well-being
- Special needs assisting
Graduates then go on to pursue degree courses, or work in childcare centres, schools or community groups.
Special Needs Assistant QQI Level 6 courses are for learners who wish to progress from a QQI Level 5 to a QQI Level 6 qualification. These courses offer broader knowledge and a greater understanding of the issues surrounding disabilities and learning difficulties.