According to the 2017 BC Labour Market Outlook, careers in healthcare and human services are expected to grow. With more people recognizing the importance of tailoring to each individual and providing high-quality care, a large growth is also expected in the area of special education and social support. If you are looking for a career in the education and helping industries, the best time to start is now.
“Our population is aging so there will be a growing number of careers in Health Care and Social Assistance. These jobs represent the top industry grouping for growth, with more than 15 percent of openings.” – BC Labour Market Outlook
One of the fastest ways to enter the field of special education is to become a special education assistant. Special education is a fast-growing in-demand field that would be a great fit for compassionate, patient and enthusiastic people who are not afraid of challenges, are excited about continuous learning, and are looking for a rewarding career path.
Who are Special Education Assistants?
Special education assistants are the biggest support systems for individuals with special needs. They work closely with children and young adults who have varying degrees of disabilities.
Special education assistants provide support and learning aid to individuals with developmental, emotional, physical, communication or learning challenges. They assist in various areas, including behaviour management, social skills training, curriculum planning and implementation, physical assistance, and personal care.
Most special education assistants work with special needs students in smaller groups, with opportunities for one-on-one care. They often work closely with other teachers and instructors in preschool and school settings, special education classrooms, or various developmental disabilities programs. Special education assistants can also work with students individually through after-school tutoring, home support programs or respite care.
Daily activities for educational assistants can vary. Generally speaking, special education assistants are the ones making sure that students keep up with their lessons and receive necessary help and support (for instance, if they need extra time to understand the materials, or are seeking emotional support). Education assistants are often the ones responsible for creating and implementing an individualized education plan for their students. This plan focuses on goal-setting for each individual with special needs. It is designed to ensure that students are able to attain the optimal educational level and can thrive in their environment. In a public school setting, individualized education plan also outlines how the school can accommodate students with special needs.
Special education assistants can work full-time or part-time, most often during school hours or right after school.
Special Education Assistant Duties and Responsibilities
As it was mentioned earlier, special education assistants are the key helpers in the life of the individual with special needs. Whether they provide assistance to teachers and educators or work directly with students and their families, their main duty is to ensure that each student is making significant progress in their education and is learning the necessary social, emotional and behavioural skills.
Typical duties and tasks for special education assistants will vary depending on each student’s individual needs. Some of the special education assistant duties may include:
- Supervising students during indoor and outdoor activities;
- Providing necessary assistance through behavioural modifications and/or learning aid during and in-between lessons;
- Preparing special educational and/or therapeutic programs for students;
- Assisting teachers with lesson plans and individual and/or group activities;
- Tailoring educational materials to the student’s needs and providing individual assistance with learning materials as necessary;
- Creating a supportive learning environment for each student by ensuring safety and optimal learning conditions in the classroom;
- Fostering positive relationships with families and continuously informing them on the student’s progress and development;
- Assisting students with daily tasks and activities, including personal care, meals, mobility, hygiene, etc.
Special Education Assistant Salary
Education assistant salary in BC varies depending on the work district, the type of position and the terms of employment. In general, the income of special education assistants increases with more practice and experience.
On average, special education assistant earn 22.35 Canadian dollars per hour, according to Payscale.com. Other sources quote average hourly rate from 22 to 26 Canadian dollars.
Special Education Assistant Qualifications
People working with special needs students need to have strong organizational and interpersonal skills. Special education assistants are in constant communication with students, families, teachers, therapists and faculty, so effective communication skills become crucial to their job. It is important to be well-organized and prepared, but also flexible. Educational assistants need to have patience, compassion, empathetic attitude and ability to stay calm in the face of challenges or unexpected circumstances.
The main qualification for teaching assistants who are working with individuals with disabilities is education.
A detailed understanding of various disabilities along with the skill set and knowledge of key educational and developmental strategies are essential components for sucess in a special education assistant career.
Anyone who wants to become an education assistant needs to obtain a certificate, a diploma or a degree in the field of education. Special education assistants should make sure that the program or courses they take provide the necessary training and experiences that are specific for working with individuals with disabilities. A good example is a Bachelor in Special Education Degree, or a Special Education Assistant Diploma or Certificate.
Additional training and education are crucial to ensure success in the field. Special education assistant programs help candidates in the following areas:
- Obtain in-depth knowledge of common disabilities, such as Autism Spectrum Disorders, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, dyslexia, and other physical, cognitive and social impairments;
- Develop familiarity and understanding of various disabilities in a classroom setting and their impact on individual’s behaviour and learning capabilities;
- Learn educational and behavioural techniques used to foster a positive and productive learning environment for individuals with special needs;
- Increase understanding of techniques and tools used to assist students with challenging behaviours;
- Attend certification workshops, such as First Aid and Assessment of Basic Language and Learning skills (ABLLs);
- Understand the nuances of ethics and learn effective communication techniques with both individuals with special needs and their families;
- Gain valuable practical skills through work terms or field practicums.
Special education assistants will need to pass a criminal record check prior to working with individuals in the vulnerable sector.
Don’t Know Where to Start?
Begin with education! Ashton College provides a fast-track entrance into the healthcare and human services field with the Special Education Assistant Diploma.
Learn the fundamentals and gain work experience in under a year!