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Special Education Assistant: Everything You Want to Learn [Guide]

Published On: March 24, 2023

An education assistant reads aloud to her students

If you are passionate about the education sector and want to help children learn, you might consider becoming a special education assistant. In this role, you will be able to make a difference in the lives of children with special needs and give them the support they deserve when pursuing their education. 

For more Special Education Assistant content, refer to our website.

What does a Special Education Assistant (SEA) do?

Their main role is to assist the teacher by supporting students with special needs. It's important to clarify that special education assistants work alongside teachers. Their main responsibilities include assisting students with physical disabilities with mobility, communication, feeding and personal hygiene. They monitor students and support with behaviour modification, personal development, speech therapy, math help, reading and writing, etcetera.

All of this is done under the guidance and supervision of teachers.

Read this blog if you're interested in an in-depth guide on what an Education Assistant does.

What other names exist for this career choice?

You've likely heard of a few different names for this role. We'll be using each of these names interchangeably throughout this guide.

Some include:

  • Teacher's Assistant
  • Special Education Assistant
  • Education Assistant
  • Education Aid
  • Teacher's Aid
  • Term Teacher

Pros of Becoming an Education Assistant

  • This is an exceptionally satisfying job. You’re working in one of the most rewarding areas of education with students who are generally transparent about their progress and feelings – regardless of their levels of emotional engagement. Each day will come with a sense of momentum, no matter how small.
  • As part of a school that has other integrated classes, you can develop support and connection with other special education assistants as well as with teachers. This team can help you when you have challenges, have a day that doesn’t feel so great and establish a sense of camaraderie in your workplace.
  • Parents of special needs students are often quite hands-on, so by working together with the child, you’ll be developing relationship not only with the student but also with their parents and other family members as they come to the school in the morning or afternoon to discuss different situations and developments. You’ll likely start to feel like a part of the family’s team as well as the teacher’s team.

Cons of becoming a Special Education Assistant

  • Because the job requires working with children who may not be able to communicate their needs in traditional ways, the job can be emotionally exhausting. Especially when you’re trying to determine the challenges the child is facing while working, at the same time, to reduce disruption to the rest of the class.
  • Most students need personal care and physical assistance. This can be stressful for some educational assistants.
  • It can also take a long time to build trust with a student and “hit your stride,” where you begin to see the positive development you were hoping for. Since every student is different, a methodology that has worked with one student may not work with the other.

Fortunately, the pros far outweigh the cons.

Average Education Assistants Salary reports that the average salary in Canada for an Education Assistant is around $24.00/hour. Depending on where you live, the salary can fluctuate positive or negatively. If you reside in BC, your wage will be roughly $26.25 as of 2023. However in Alberta, the average wage is $18.96/hour.

The history of the Education Assistants

Education Assistants have always existed, but their role has continually expanded. Since the inclusion model came into practice in the 1980s, Education Assistants have been needed more and more. Of course, their training was not as extensive as it is today. As we continue to embrace inclusion in the classroom, teachers require trained EA's to assist with students.

How a Teacher's Assistant career evolved over time

Teachers now understand that special education assistants bring a level of knowledge and skill that they may not have themselves. By working together, they can support the students in the classroom.

Other changes include the increase in the use of computers, smart boards, assistive and augmentative technology for those students who require alternative communication.

Qualifications and skills to become a Special Education Assistant

To get into this field, you need to complete an Education Assistant Program with the required number of practicum hours. You also need to obtain a criminal record check. However, there are other skills and abilities that are equally important. You need to be genuinely committed to helping children learn, and have cultural and ability sensitivity.

During the time of your studies, you will begin to develop the habits you will need in the workplace. You will need to develop and increase your awareness, problem solving and critical thinking skills. You will be required to manage time for assignments and projects. Most of all, you’ll need to remain open to what may seem to be new ideas and new ways of thinking.

An SEA program will prepare you for the real world. It will help you develop and increase your awareness, improve problem-solving and critical thinking skills. Apart from teaching you time management skills, a good program will train you to be open to new ideas and new ways of thinking.   

Once you start working as a special education assistant, you will use all these new habits. Your job will be to work with the students you are assigned and to do so while being caring and respectful. It’s important to realize that every child is unique, and every child can learn. Your job will be to figure out, with the teacher’s guidance, a teaching plan based on the specific needs of the child.

A woman with her special needs child on her hip waving

The Special Education Assistant program at Ashton College

Special Education Assistants have never been in more demand. Teachers need support staff who are trained to encourage the development and empowerment of the students they are working with. Ashton College’s curriculum covers exceptionalities that are high-incidence (Autism, Down Syndrome) to low-incidence (Angelman Syndrome, Williams Syndrome, PKU, Prader-Willi). We feel that it is vital for our graduates to have an in-depth knowledge of all the special needs their future students might have.

With the ever-increasing number of refugees settling in Canada, there is an urgent need for Teacher's Assistants to help these students acclimate. Not only must they learn English, but also have to grapple with their new culture and surroundings. Unfortunately, violence and persecution obligate many families around the world to abandon all that was familiar and seek refuge elsewhere.

In light of this, educational institutions around the nation are opening their arms to students from a variety of countries. These pupils bring with them varied cultural backgrounds and experiences while coping with both the pressures and hardships associated with being refugees. We place significant emphasis on showing sensitivity toward different cultures within our program.

The benefits of completing the SEA program from Ashton College

The biggest one is that students will acquire quality education, and by that I mean that our students have more than the surface-level knowledge of being a Special Education Assistant. Anyone can read a textbook, but we bring our students into a classroom environment that is rich with opportunities to ensure the comprehension and application of the required skills.

Instructors at Ashton are passionate. They have the skills to get students to a level where they can become a professional. We also train students on Mandt, which has some similarities to non-violent crisis intervention. Mandt offers a level of training that supports the diversity of behaviours we currently see in schools and agencies that NVCI does not cover. More and more schools and agencies are seeking this training, and we are pleased to offer it to our students.

What are you some of the focus areas when teaching this program?

Firstly, we aim to go beyond merely understanding the prevalence and characteristics of a certain disorder/syndrome. Future SEAs will need a paradigm shift in their understanding of what it means to the student they are working with. No student should have their skill level and abilities underestimated. Secondly, we concentrate on what Universal Design for Learning and Differentiated Instruction is and how to use it.

Who should choose the Special Education Assistant program?

The best candidates for this field are people who truly enjoy working with children. This means that regardless of how the child is behaving, you realize that the child is developing as best they can based on the models they are learning from. The best candidates for the SEA work are those who are understanding and are sensitive to the obstacles children face while in their care. Children in schools deserve the best assistance they can get.

Being a SEA is a challenging and sometimes frustrating career. But the rewards far outweigh everything when you know that every day you are trying your very best in making a meaningful difference in the life of a child.


The information contained in this post is considered true and accurate as of the publication date. However, the accuracy of this information may be impacted by changes in circumstances that occur after the time of publication. Ashton College assumes no liability for any error or omissions in the information contained in this post or any other post in our blog.


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  1. Yassamen aljabir says:

    I am intrested to special eduction how can i get courses or certificate.

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