Special Needs Assistants (SNA) play an important role in helping children with autism and additional needs in the classroom. The primarily role of an SNA is to help children with special needs access all areas of the curriculum. Although it is a non-teaching role, SNAs provide support and guidance in the classroom and become a friendly face they can turn to.

The career of a special needs assistant is one that is challenging but very rewarding. The duties of an SNA are often varied and all-encompassing. Although they typically work within school and classroom hours, there is also an expectation to assist during school outings and social events which occur outside the classroom.

What are the Expectations and Responsibilities of an SNA?

The Department of Education outlines a variety of roles and responsibilities of special needs assistants.

One of the main responsibilities of an SNA is to help in the preparation and tidying of the classrooms where students with additional needs are being accommodated in.

Moreover, there is also an expectation to help students with physical disabilities in typing or writing as well as assisting in clothing, toileting, feeding, and general hygiene. Assisting during out-of-school activities and supervising in recreational activities and assembly periods are also included in their responsibilities. When an SNA is appointed to assist a specific student in the school, the provision of the guidance and support for that student should be catered particularly to their needs.

Special Needs Assistant with Autistic Child

To do well in the work, SNAs should have a caring nature with excellent communication skills. A desire and passion to help students with special needs is a must. This will provide them with the ability and patience to deal with challenging behaviour. There is also a need for SNAs to show creativity and practical skills for activities.

How Do SNAs Help Children with Autism?

SNA with Child with autism

Children with Autism often face challenges with anxiety and feeling comfortable and safe in their environment. The SNAs will become a friendly face for them to bond with and will help them feel more comfortable in school. Moreover, they can also help with the issue of overcrowding – ensuring that students with special needs are able to have balance between working in the school and giving them space.

Special needs assistants are also able to focus on the specific challenges of children with autism. This will allow them to focus on the circumstances that stresses and upsets them specifically. Over time, this allows them to know which situations to avoid and ensure that the child’s needs are looked after continuously even with changes such as new classrooms, teachers, and curriculum.

Enabling children with autism gain independence is also an important role that they play. By allowing the children with autism to be gently challenged but still considering their limits, they are able to build confidence and trust.

The SNA can also help in negative circumstances, withdrawing the child from the situation and allowing the issue to be addressed. The SNA can help in ensuring that the child with autism is able to socialise, encouraging them to play with other children to as much as they can tolerate. More importantly, they are there to ensure that other children in the class or playground as kind and inclusive to the child with autism.

They also help ensure that the child’s class time is maximised and they don’t miss out due to distractions or difficulty grasping or understanding instructions. The SNA is someone the student will grow to trust inside the classroom. They will be vital in helping students with autism gain confidence, independence, and provide a safety net within the classroom.

Looking To Start Your Career As An SNA?

If the work of an SNA is something that interests you, our QQI Accredited SNA Courses can help you get a jump start in your career. We have a range of part-time, blended online, and intensive courses that can suit your schedule and needs. Our courses are delivered in Dublin and nationwide.

Our Level 5 SNA course covers all necessary and fundamental modules and topics in special needs assisting. Our Level 6 SNA course provides students with a deeper understanding of the different issues surrounding special needs assisting. Our Combined Level 5 & 6 course allows students to benefit from both courses, which makes them stand out when seeking employment.

For more information, give us a call at (01) 488 4300 or send us an email at info@progressivecollege.ie