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Importance of Special Education: Addressing the Work of Education Assistants in BC

By: Suzanne Adams

Published On: September 12, 2017

“All students should have equitable access to learning, opportunities for achievement, and the pursuit of excellence in all aspects of their educational programs.” This is how the BC Government talks about their inclusive education resources and strategies.

The province of BC, alongside other Canadian provinces, continue to stand strong in expressing the desire to make education accessible to students with special needs. It comes as no surprise that Special Education Assistants are in demand in educational settings: they have the skills and experiences to facilitate learning for individuals with one or more disabilities. It is also a well-earning occupation, with the median salary of $23.21 across Canada.

As more education assistants (EAs) are finding themselves teaching in diverse classrooms that include children with special needs, more conversations are sparked on the topics of class preparation and extra work for EAs. “There is a responsibility to ensure that each child has the opportunity to reach their potential as a student,” shares one of the Education Assistants BC. Another educational assistant notes:

“Achievements are happening because of the extra work being put in.”

We definitely need to recognize this work.

Recognizing the Need for Special Education Assistants

In April 2009, John D. Malcolmson (Ph.D.), a research representative for CUPE, BC Region, published findings from survey research into the working conditions of EAs in BC. The report is titled Recognition & Respect: Addressing the Unpaid Work of Education Assistants in BC.

Suzanne Adams, Program Developer and Instructor at Ashton College in Abbotsford, BC, read this report and recognized the importance of educational qualifications and interests of the EA workforce. “This report was the basic foundational tool that I used to build programs that addressed the training needs for EAs in 2009,” she shares. “Today, 8 years later, this report and the ongoing conversations with the school districts in the Fraser Valley give a renewed relevance to what was needed as our Special Education Assistant course was developed at Ashton College.”

“The demands and expectations from schools on educational assistants working with the most vulnerable students in our school system suggest that we should never be content to settle for less in training,” adds Suzanne.

The report outlines the training priorities given by EAs that are currently in the field. Those include issues in Autism and FASD, behavioural issues, medical and physical disability issues, mental health issues, issues of violence, first aid, non-violent crisis prevention, collaborative practice, and professionalism. Other key issues revolve around the schools and society in general, software and technology, and strategies for supporting students.

The list above is only a brief overview of training requirements that the Education assistants need to feel confident in their roles. Ensuring that education assistants are well-versed in special education also means peace of mind for the families who now feel confident about who is working with their child, and for teachers who feel supported in their classrooms. Special needs students deserve no less.

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