Special needs education means the special educational arrangements which are in place for children with disabilities. All children – including children with disabilities and children with special needs – have a constitutional right to free primary education.
The policy is to provide special needs education in mainstream settings as far as possible. The Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004 provides that children are to be educated in an inclusive setting unless this would not be in the best interests of the child or the effective provision of education for other children in mainstream education.
Special Needs Education and Special Needs Assistants play a key role in ensuring and supporting the delivery of education to those with additional educational needs.
Special Needs Assistants are allocated to schools to work with children who have specific care needs. They provide non-teaching care support. Although providing non-teaching support, Special Needs Assistants make an enormous contribution to supporting those with additional educational needs.
They play a vital role in the educational/personal development of a child who requires their support. It can be difficult to sum up the role of an SNA because so many go above and beyond the call of duty.
It says the role of the SNA is to provide schools with additional adult support staff who can assist children with special educational needs who also have additional and significant care needs.
Such support is provided to facilitate their attendance at school and to minimise disruption to class or teaching time for the pupils concerned, or for their peers, and with a view to developing their independent living skills.
The daily role of an SNA can involve assisting with primary care needs such as:
Assistance with feeding: where a child with special needs requires adult assistance.
Administration of medicine: where a child requires adult assistance to administer medicine.
Assistance with toileting and general hygiene: (including catheterisation) where a child with special needs cannot independently self-toilet.
Assistance with mobility and orientation: on an ongoing basis including assisting a child or children to access the school and the classroom, accessing school transport or helping a child to avoid hazards in or surrounding the school.
Assisting teachers to provide supervision in the class, playground and school grounds: at recreation, assembly, and dispersal times including assistance with arriving and departing from school for pupils with special needs.
Non-nursing care needs associated with specific medical conditions: such as frequent epileptic seizures or for pupils who have fragile health.
Care needs requiring frequent interventions including withdrawal of a pupil from a classroom when essential: This may be for safety or personal care reasons, or where a child may be required to leave the class for medical reasons or due to frequent distress.
Assistance with moving and lifting of children, and operation of hoists and equipment.
Assistance with severe communication difficulties including enabling curriculum access for pupils with physical disabilities or sensory needs and those with significant and identified social and emotional difficulties. Under the direction of the teacher, this might include assistance with assistive technology equipment, typing or handwriting, supporting transition, assisting with supervision at recreation, dispersal times etc.
There are also secondary care tasks that SNAs may perform including:
Preparation and tidying of workspaces and classrooms or assisting a child who is not physically able to perform such tasks to prepare and tidy a workspace, to present materials, to display work, or to transition from one lesson activity to another. To assist with the cleaning of materials.
Assistance with the development of Personal Pupil Plans for children with special educational needs, with a particular focus on developing a care plan to meet the care needs of the pupil concerned and the review of such plans.
Assist teachers and/or the Principal in maintaining a journal or care monitoring system for pupils including details of attendance and care needs.
Assist in the preparation of school files and materials relating to care and assistance required in class by students with special needs.
Planning for activities and classes where there may be additional care requirements associated with particular activities, liaising with class teachers and other teachers such as the resource teacher and school principal, attending meetings with parents, SENO, NEPS Psychologists, or school staff meetings with the agreement and guidance of class teacher/principal.
Assistance with enabling a pupil to access therapy or psycho-educational programmes such as anger management or social skills classes, under the direction of qualified personnel, including class teachers or support teachers.
Assistance to attend or participate in out-of-school activities: walks, or visits, where such assistance cannot be provided by teaching staff.
SNAs play an important role in supporting those with learning, physical or behavioural difficulties.
The role of an SNA in the classroom involves assisting the teacher to support students with special educational needs who may also have significant care needs.
Through education, knowledge and understanding an SNA can ensure that a child with special needs experiences a positive learning experience developing their confidence and independence.