How to enjoy being a Special Needs Assistant in a Primary School

26 Jan

These are my tips for getting the most out of working 1 to 1 with statemented KS2 children.

Smile, a lot. Being happy is infectious.

Do not try to be friends with the child, your role is to be an adult in school that they like (most of the time!) and respect.

Never lose your temper – always be polite, well mannered and thoughtful. I have visualised myself as a Jedi master (use whatever image you can relate to) in my head to maintain my external serenity. Swear inside your head if it helps.

Always use positive body language and never roll your eyes behind the child’d back. They can sense this.

Talk privately in the staffroom (with the door closed) to your colleaugues to get out your frustrations, if the child is having a trying day. Ask for help, other staff may have useful suggestions. You will feel better after telling someone else you are having a bad day.

Be a Reflective Practitioner. If something you try doesn’t work, write it down and use it to think about what to try next time. Keep a personal record of good and bad days, and what did and didn’t work. There may be an official book to write up in, remember to put positive comments in it too.

Talk to the child at breaktimes and find out what they are interested in. Use their interests to make some of their work more appealing to them or say “How would Doctor Who answer this question?”

Don’t bore them with long stories about yourself. Tell them little bits about your family, your pets, what you watched on TV (if it’s a show they like too) etc. to engage them to talk to you about themselves.

Be on their side if there is a fall-out with another child or adult in the school. Even if they are at fault, sympathise with why it happened and help them to make things right again.

If you feel yourself getting stressed or wound up in a tricky situation, tell another adult in the school. They can either take over from you for a few minutes or back you up.

If the child has anger issues, agree a signal between you and the teacher, so you can signal them if the child is starting to get angry. Learn what triggers the child in lessons and to read their body language, so you can suggest moving to the shared area and away from the classroom, before they get angry in the classroom. It is easier to deal with their anger, away from an audience of 29 other children.

If you use a Red Card system to fetch help from a designated adult, carry one in your pocket at all times and know where the card is placed in the classroom. Make sure the other chldren in the classroom know what to do if they are asked to take the Red Card. Be aware of which staff are not in school each day, if they are part of the team to help you.

Do not be afraid of asking for help if you feel you cannot cope with certain behaviour. Observe how other staff deal with similar situations and decide what you could try another time.

Be firm. Do not ever be wishy washy. Children are experts at working out the weakest link and emotionally manipulating that person. Do not be that person.

Have fun! Be enthusiastic! Exclaim whow much you are enjoying the lesson!

A good phrase to use it “Talk to me and I will help you.” Do help. Ask around. Let the child know who you have asked and what you found out to help them.

Praise them. Remind them regularly of their strengths and what they do well. Use the school reward scheme and their individual one (if they have one). Tell other adults in the school in front of the child, how happy you are with them when they have worked hard. Tell their parents too at hometime.

Remember to communicate good things to their parents, as well as any tricky issues. Make sure that it’s not all negative.

Be open and honest in meetings. Take your personal notes about what did and didn’t work in tricky situations.

Being a Special Needs Assistant isn’t for everyone, but there is so much to learn from it and so many times that you can go home knowing that you have made a difference to a child’s life.




6 Responses to “How to enjoy being a Special Needs Assistant in a Primary School”

  1. Helen Palmer January 26, 2013 at 4:35 pm #

    HI anna, really enjoyed this post 🙂

    • DigForTea January 27, 2013 at 10:43 am #

      Good, there is probably more to add to it, but that’s what came to me immediately yesterday.

  2. Sue January 27, 2013 at 10:07 am #

    Seems to me a lot of this can be applied to working with anyone, child or adult, special needs or not. Lots of really good useful tips for all of us

    • DigForTea January 27, 2013 at 10:44 am #

      Very true, good point! I shall have to do one for Surviving Working in a Bitchy Office Environment too!

  3. helenprev January 27, 2013 at 11:11 am #

    Thank you, this is fab! I’m definitely doing quite a bit of it already and am filing it all away in my mind ready for the coming week. 🙂

    • DigForTea January 27, 2013 at 11:43 am #

      Glad it’s useful to someone doing the same job. This is what I learnt over the 2 & a bit years I worked 1 to 1. It’s my hands on tips of what worked for me. I wonder if a textbook would say similar or different?

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