We have shared posts recently on the 5 key skills that employers look for in TAs, and on how to apply for graduate teaching assistant jobs. But, how about becoming a SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disability) teaching assistant? It is a very rewarding role, and the demand for SEN TAs is increasing all the time. SEN teaching assistants are able to support SEND students in class, working with students on a 1:1 or group basis. They are tasked with implementing strategies to support learners and encourage their engagement with the National Curriculum.
Being a special needs teaching assistant comes with a unique set of challenges. So what does it take to be an amazing SEN teaching assistant? Experience is important, but not always essential! There are qualifications that can support your application process, including:
- Certificate in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools (Level 2 & 3)
- Level 3 Diploma in Childcare and Education Early Years Educator
- T Level in Education and Childcare
But equally as important is your personality and passion. It is possible to find SEN teaching assistant jobs without a mountain of previous experience. If you can demonstrate you have the right personal qualities to make a difference you will be given a chance.
How to become a SEN Teaching Assistant:
Are you a great candidate? One of the simplest pathways to becoming an SEN teaching assistant is through a teaching agency. If you see a role among the current SEN TA jobs available at Prospero, then simply get in touch with your CV to apply. If you’d like further support with this, check out our related posts below:
- How do I get a teaching assistant job?
- How to write a teaching assistant CV
- A guide to school support staff roles
What makes a great SEN TA?
Getting back to our focus in this post, what traits make great SEN teaching assistants and why? Read on for our top 6 SEN TA qualities. If you are applying for teaching assistant jobs but don’t have much school experience, think of examples from your personal experience where you have demonstrated these 6 key qualities.
An SEN teaching assistant supporting a student with a multisensory activity
1. Have a Little Patience
Patience is essential. There are many challenges when working with students who have complex needs – refusal, aggression, repetition. Yet, when progress is made, there is an incredibly rewarding feeling. The moment that student, completely unprompted, makes the sound like a snake, after weeks of learning how to read and write the initial sound /s/ makes it all worthwhile.
2. Show Your Enthusiasm
Let’s face it, this characteristic is important for anyone who works with children and young people. How can we excite and engage learners if we ourselves exhibit the enthusiasm of a damp sponge? No matter how exhausted we feel, it is our job as education professionals to inspire the children in our care so at 08.50 we start the show! Can you be that friendly face at the start of the day and cheery wave goodbye at hometime?
3. Harness Your Creativity
An SEN school provides pupils with specialist support that mainstream schools are unable to provide – such as facilities, resources, therapy and curriculum access. SEN TAs working in mainstream schools provide this support within the classroom, including time spent in a dedicated learning area.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of supporting children with disabilities is that you have more freedom over what you teach and how you teach it. The focus is on the individual child and finding a way to inspire them, enabling them to understand new concepts and meet their personal learning goals. An SEN teaching assistant should be comfortable in learning multi-sensory activities, including giant story sacks, singing and dancing, cooking and eating, basically anything that involves making a bit of a mess!
An SEN TA supporting a student within a mainstream classroom
4. Demonstrate Empathy & Understanding
Try not to take it personally. On the days you are scratched, nipped or shouted at, remember why it’s happening… Take a moment to consider the circumstances that this child is facing, and what may be causing them such distress. Having to play with a red train instead of a blue one may seem insignificant to many of us, but to a child with Autism it can feel like the end of the world. Doing your research on each individual child is vital. This can be tricky for a day to day supply teaching assistant. Therefore, it is imperative to ask for IEPs or EHCPs (Individual Education Plans or Educational Health Care Plans) the moment you arrive. With experience, you will build your understanding, and improve your skills in supporting students with complex learning needs.
5. Display Your Adaptability
No day is the same when you work in SEN! Likewise, days often have the habit of not quite going according to plan. Therefore, being flexible and adaptable is essential! When you’re about to start an art lesson and suddenly your entire paint supply is on the floor, you’ve got to think fast. Head outside for an impromptu PE (Physical Education) lesson? Create an art attack style painting on the floor instead? It all depends on what works best for the student, and what strategies will work to deescalate and divert their attention onto something productive.
6. Have a Strong Sense of Humour
Let’s be truthful, supporting children with Special Educational Needs is never easy. A week in any school will feel like a month if you aren’t able to find something to smile about. SEN education staff are among the most caring, open and humourous professionals out there. It’s really important that you are able to share a chuckle with your team at the end of a challenging day. That old cliché that laughter is the best medicine does ring true here. It can help to reduce stress and spread positivity amongst students, staff and carers!
Thank you for reading! We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this post on ‘How to become a SEN teaching assistant.’
All of the qualities above are fantastic for any education professional to have. To work in a SEND setting, you’ll need to have each of these in abundance. Do you think you have what it takes to support children with SEND?