22 April, 2021 | Posted by Michelle Hogan

SNA is Key to Early Intervention and 'Could Benefit a Child's Whole Life'

Special Needs Assisting Early Years Practitioner Early Intervention

A Special Needs Assisting (SNA) qualification can give early years practitioners the skills and knowledge to identify when early intervention is needed and assist in improving a child's life.

Early Years practitioners with SNA qualifications can be critical in highlighting the need for additional support among young children who display challenging behaviours or special educational needs at an early age, playing a huge role in improving the child's life. 

Barnardos Ireland says that early intervention is at the core of their work to reduce the effects of a child’s challenges and to support and develop a child’s educational skills, such as ‘the ability to make and sustain friendships, literacy skills, manage conflict, problem solving and self-regulate’ which will be important throughout their life.

Watch this video by Barnardos about early intervention:


SNA and Early Years Lecturer at Portobello Institute, Limin Bai, worked in early years education for 12 years before deciding to add SNA to her skillset and develop her education further.

Limin now lectures on our SNA Level 5 and Level 6 programmes while working in a special educational needs setting. She brings her wealth of experience and knowledge to our Early Years and SNA programmes and encourages all early years practitioners and parents of children with special needs to gain their SNA qualifications.

She believes that having the skills to observe and highlight early intervention could change the course of a child’s life if they receive the support they need as early as possible.

Life-changing responsibility

“In this time as early years educators we have a responsibility to remind or talk with managers or parents to let them know that there is something you have noticed with their child as early as can be, it can be brilliant, you could save that child’s life as early as possible and really help a child to become more advanced.

“Otherwise it can be delayed and delayed until it’s time for the child to go to primary school and the parents suddenly realise the child is not able to sit still or concentrate or stay in the classroom without the SNA.

“As early as can be will really benefit that child’s whole life. What we do as early years educators we also have a responsibility, while we do not diagnose children or tell the parents what is wrong, we still should have the ability to observe the child and communicate that.

“The core point is, in early years education, everybody should get training in special needs and disabilities because the children in classrooms can have challenging behaviours and any knowledge you have about special needs or disabilities will really support those children and their future,” Limin said.

How SNA helps in Early Years

“We had children in the school with challenging behaviours so that’s why I decided to do more courses. I did the SNA course for 10 weeks during the summer holidays and I realised that it was really helpful with early years.

“You learn about all different types of disabilities, you know how to handle them with good practice, you also know the legislation to support how you do it and you can give some advice or opinions to parents when they are not sure what they can do.

“It is not our responsibility to diagnose the children but you can inform the parents. In this school I work in an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) class, half of the children are mainstream, and half are in the process of diagnosing possible ASD and one with a hearing impairment. So, if I had never done the SNA courses, I would have no confidence to help children with special needs.

“The children need extra care from someone who knows how to handle children with special needs. If staff do not know how to handle children with special needs it can be very difficult, you don’t know where to start. Some children might make no eye contact or maybe don’t have any reaction or response to you so for practitioners with no experience with children with special needs before it is hard.

“Doing an SNA course will familiarise you with the challenging behaviours, what causes them and how to respond to them. SNA is also really helpful for issues around language development," she said. 

Work as part of a multi-disciplinary team

“I usually work with psychologists once a month and talk about the children’s development especially children with a language delay, I usually give them one to one workshop using materials that relate to their interests and talents, I know what they like either numbers or shapes, songs or arts and crafts because we are the ones who work with them every day while psychologists observe them so that’s why we work together. We also work with a speech and language therapist which really works well together, and the parents are the bridge in the middle.

“A lot of times the parents are self-learning so when they talk with us, we can help to prepare them using what we know to support the children. Children with special needs need extra care, support and planning, a lot of time they might need one-to-one. We work with parents to give weekly tasks at home so every week we move one little bit at a time. Everything has to be step by step," Limin said. 

Do You Want an SNA Qualification?

Portobello Institute offers SNA Level 5 and Level 6 courses in a variety of delivery methods from an intensive two week course to part-time online with webinars so you can study around work. 

Check out our full SNA department here.

Ask our admissions expert George Boylan about our Level 6 courses if you already have experience or training to Level 5 standard. Email george.boylan@portobelloinstitute.com, call him on 01 892 0041 or schedule a consultation here.

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