09 February, 2021 | Posted by Michelle Hogan

Considering a career change into Special Needs Assisting?

Special Needs Assisting Portobello Institute

Do you want a better work-life balance? A more family-focused lifestyle? Or are you seeking better job security after Covid-19? Maybe it's time to consider a career change to Special Needs Assisting.

Special Needs Assisting (SNA) is a valued career choice that has proven successful, enjoyable, and attainable for many Portobello Institute graduates and tutors.

Fran Trehy tutors Level 5 and Level 6 SNA courses at Portobello. She has first hand experience of taking a sharp career change into SNA and understands students who do the same:

“I worked in the airport for over 15 years and when my children were small, I wanted something that was a more conducive lifestyle and SNA fit perfectly.

“I was a manager, it was all late nights and early mornings with long hours. It was stressful. And being a manager you’re the first one in and [the] last one to leave making sure everything is done. My husband was working night shifts at the time and I had small kids. It was a constant juggling act to work around the shift work and the children.

“I went and did my Level 5 and Level 6 SNA courses. I thought I was doing it for logistical reasons and family life, but it turned out that I loved it and became passionate about it.

“I was always interested in children and hands on with my own children. I did a lot of work with them in terms of play and development, but I never encountered children with special needs really before I started to study it.

“Changing career was a huge and difficult decision. There was so much to consider. I was on good money, had free flights, perks in the airport. It was a big, big decision but I knew that I needed to put my family first and have more time with my children.

“I didn’t change for a passion, I changed purely for more family time and it grew to become my passion from there. I adore children with special needs and I love that I can give back the experience I have gained over the years by tutoring adults. It’s the best of both worlds for me.”

 

Understanding Family Life and Extra Support

Having studied her Level 8 degree when she had two young children at home, Fran understands how to tutor learners who may need flexibility and extra support while managing a busy family life.

She keeps an open line of communication with her students and is honest with them from the beginning about the challenge of what work they need to do. She alleviates pressure and identifies any struggles from the start to work towards solutions. If a deadline needs to be amended or extra support is needed, she's there to provide it.

 

The Challenge is Worth the Reward 

Fran says that studying, either in general or with young children in tow, is always a challenge but she firmly believes that the challenge is worth the reward.

“The reward for me now is meeting those children who were in my class 16 years ago and seeing that now they have children of their own or they are in college. I met one past pupil recently and he was studying a Masters in Trinity. That is a huge reward for me years later. My children are grown up and any challenge getting the courses done has been completely worth it.

“The other reward for what I put into it is what I am able to give back now after so many years of doing it. I have valuable insights and extensive experience [so] I can educate the next SNAs with [my] in-depth knowledge.

“I am honest with students from the beginning. It is a challenge to study with kids but the reward at the end is always worth it, education is always worth it."

 

Difference between Level 5 or Level 6?

Fran tutors at both levels and distinguishes clearly between Level 5, an introductory informative course, and Level 6, an academic, theory-based course that creates a pathway into further education.

“When I teach Level 5 SNA courses, I always encourage students to do the Level 6 too. The Level 5 is in my opinion an informative starting point. If you have never worked with children before we inform you about what to expect, tell you about the array of conditions I have worked with over the years and give an introductory insight into SNA.

“Level 6 then brings you on into the academic side of SNA. It is based on theories. You learn about types of behaviour, developmental milestones and it is a stepping stone into further education, a Level 7 and as far as you want to go.

“I always tell my students; take a break but never close yourself off to the possibility of studying further and further over time. Chip away at it for personal and professional development. You will never regret education."

If Fran's experience sounds similar to you or has inspired you to consider SNA further, please see all of our upcoming courses here.

Portobello Institute offers Special Needs Assisting QQI Level 5 (starting February 16, 2021), Special Needs Assisting QQI Level 6 (starting February 23, 2021) and a Special Needs Assisting Level 5 & Level 6 Booking Package (starting February 16, 2021).

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