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Recently, a school called the parent of a child who has autism asking that she keep her son home for the day. The reason: the school was short of Educational Assistants (EA). The demand for qualified individuals with an education assistant diploma has been growing, but there aren’t enough graduates to fill these positions.
Student enrollments at schools are growing. However, the number of learning support teachers isn’t. If there aren’t enough EAs, it puts a strain on the present EAs because their workload understandably shoots up. This means that they are working with larger groups of students, instead of smaller ones, thereby unable to spend enough time with each student and pay proper attention to them. As a direct result, students with special needs are being left unsupported in schools.
Education assistants tend to children with varying disabilities, providing behaviour management, social skills development, personal care and physical assistance, among other things. Working under the supervision of teachers, EAs give special needs children additional time and attention to help them better integrate with their classes. SEAs not only support the children and their educators, but they also help the families of these children.
Special education assistants are an integral part of the system because they ensure that there no interruption in the education of these children. Only a person with a unique combination of skills, such as patience, organization and communication skills, resourcefulness, passion and dedication, and genuine love for children, is capable of working with children dealing with diverse needs and difficulties.
Take this quiz to find out if you have the qualities to become an education assistant.
To become a special education assistant in BC, you could complete a special education assistant diploma program from a reputable college or university and gain real-life experience by doing a practicum.
When you’re picking a program, ensure that the program or course provides you with comprehensive training and knowledge that will allow you to work with a wide variety of individuals with varying disabilities. A solid program should:
• Give you an in-depth understanding of all the disabilities, including Autism Spectrum Disorders, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, dyslexia, Angelman Syndrome, Williams Syndrome, PKU, Prader-Willi and other physical, cognitive and social impairments. Additionally, the curriculum should also instruct the students on the impact these disabilities have on individual behaviour and learning capabilities.
• Teach educational and behavioural techniques to promote a positive and productive learning environment for special needs individuals.
• Include training on Mandt, a comprehensive, integrated approach to preventing, de-escalating, and intervening when the behaviour of an individual poses a threat to themselves or others.
• Include certification workshops on non-violent crisis intervention, first aid, assessment of basic language and learning skills, and personal care skills.
• Teach the nuances of ethics and effective communication techniques to deal with both special needs individuals and their families.
• Offer valuable practical skills through field practicums.
The ones who make great SEAs are those who understand and empathize with the challenges special needs children face in home and social settings. Every child deserves the best care and assistance they can get. Being a SEA is not everyone’s cup of tea, as working with a child displaying challenging behaviour can be frustrating. But knowing that you’re doing your best to give this child all that you have, knowing that you’re making a meaningful difference in their lives, is a reward outweighs everything else.
There are plenty of opportunities for Special Education Assistants as they can offer their services in different settings. Apart from finding employment in private or public school settings, they can also provide:
• After-school tutoring.
• Home support for children with autism.
• Respite care.
• Behaviour intervention assistance.
• Their services as part of developmental disabilities programs and preschool environments (as an ECE Special Needs Assistant).
If you’re passionate about education and working with children who need that extra help and care, you can turn that passion into your purpose by enrolling in a special education assistant diploma.