01 March, 2022 | Posted by Michelle Hogan

Career Change to SNA: Freedom in a Rewarding Role as an AIM Support Worker

special needs assistant and child

Special Needs Assisting (SNA) opens up a world of job opportunities that can fit around your busy family life offering you more freedom in a rewarding role.

Graduate of our SNA Level 5 course, Danielle Horgan-Coghlan, changed her career from a newborn hearing screener to an AIM (Access Inclusion Model) support worker.

The AIM model of support is designed to ensure that children with disabilities can access the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Programme set out by the Department of Education

Career Change to SNA

Danielle credits her tutor at Portobello, Samantha Cooney, for supporting and preparing her for working in this role as she juggled family life and the career change while studying. 

I was a newborn hearing screener, I used to test babies' hearing, I worked at that for around eight years. When I had my own family with the hours and the childcare it was becoming difficult, I was having my third baby and it wasn’t going to be paying me to go to work.  

I was thinking of my options, I love the babies and kids, what could I do that I would be around for my own children, still work and have some money? I thought something like an SNA would be great because I really wanted to be off during the summer and Christmas. But I was so scared to do the course for so long I kept putting it off.  

One night I just clicked and booked it. The main reason I did it was to suit family life and not to be working just to pay for childcare, I’m home in time to collect two of my kids from school now. Next year I won't have any childcare. I’m off every weekend, home every day around half one, it’s ideal,” she said. 

Danielle studied one evening per week in Cork and found the classes built her confidence while the work experience allowed her to connect the assignments and new material she was learning.

Check out our upcoming SNA courses here.

Rewarding Role as an AIM Support Worker

Danielle secured a job soon after completing her Level 5 SNA course and now enjoys the rewarding experience of supporting inclusion in the early years setting through AIM.

I was wondering will we really get a job after doing this? She (Samantha Cooney, tutor) said yes and gave us great tips. I applied for jobs in August, I started working in August and I've been asked to return to the position next year. 

I am an AIM support worker, I support the needs, and the development and wellbeing of a child who needs it.

You make plans and work in line with the AIM plans and help achieve the goals, mainly it's about inclusion and integration in the setting.

“We are all different, some children need more help than others, it’s accepting it and it’s so nice to be a part of making every day a bit easier for them. 

I’m actually proud because if it wasn’t working I wouldn’t be asked to stay there, it’s just great,” she said.

Preparing for an Interview During a Career Change 

It had been ten years since Danielle had a job interview so preparation was key when entering this new phase of her life.

SNA tutor, Samantha, prepared her students with mock interviews and pointed them towards useful resources while building their confidence with her own real-life experiences.  

“Samantha was unbelievable. On one of the last nights of the course, she offered to stay back for an hour for anyone that wanted to do mock interviews and help people with questions.

Two other students availed of that with me, for some people like me I hadn’t been for an interview in over ten or 11 years, and things have changed. We always say how lucky we were to have had Samantha as a tutor. 

“We were really prepared about protecting ourselves with GDPR, never to be on your own, intimate care, you are doing a sensitive job, we were prepared in that way. 

"Samantha had given us so many of her own experiences and life stories and we did the theory and she’d link it to reality and things that had happened, it was easy simple language to understand. It was a real common-sense approach taken, I found it really good. 

Then, I just went to the interview, I said I have the course done I’m as qualified as anyone elseI really didn’t sell myself short in the interview because when we did that preparation with Samantha, we had done the questions, so I was well-rounded and prepared for the interview.  

I assured them that I was at the beginning of my new career change. I told them in my interview I want to do more, this is only the beginning for me I felt I could bring so much more, that it was only the start of my learning, I want to do my Level 6 and I want to know more about special needs.

The Department of Education recognises that because I have the SNA course done in Portobello and I’m working in a preschool setting with AIMs, you can work as an SNA for the July Provision. This is something you get very well paid for during the summer.

That’s how you get your experience working with children with different needs,” she said.  

If you are considering a career change into SNA like Danielle, check out all our upcoming courses here.

Come along to our next open evening here.

Speak to our admissions expert George Boylan in relation to any SNA queries you may have by calling 01 892 0041 or emailing georgeboylan@portobelloinstitute.com.

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