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The Pros and Cons of Becoming a Special Education Assistant

By: Ronda Payne

Published On: August 6, 2019

The increasing pressures on families and educators mean there is a need for more individuals, like special education assistants, to step up. This is an important yet challenging role that fills a gap in today’s educational environment. With record numbers of students in schools, those with special needs often don’t get the extra time and patience they require to integrate with their class. Those who’ve taken an educational assistant course can support such children, their educators and their families and create more harmony both in the school and in communities as a whole.

To appreciate the pluses and minuses of the job of an education assistant, it’s important to know what the job itself is all about. In a nutshell, an education assistant works with teachers to help provide additional support to students who have learning challenges or special needs. As noted above, this profession fills the gap between traditional education and the unique educational needs of students who need extra care, such as those with autism, Down syndrome, brain injuries or other disabilities. Their duties go beyond the roles of a regular teacher. Aspects like behaviour management, personal care, communication, physical assistance and other needs are sometimes part of the job. The role can be general, such as working with one or two students of varying needs, or specific, like providing sign language or specific behavioural support.

Like any job, there are pros and cons of becoming an education assistant. In this post, we’ve listed a few reasons that may make it an obvious career choice for some and not for others. It's important to consider them before enrolling into the education assistant course. Let’s start with the downsides first.

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.

– Frustration can be part of the mix for an education assistant when a student isn’t progressing as they may have hoped. Sometimes, certain things you thought had already been dealt with crop up again.

– 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.

Great Things About Being 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 a 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.

– Building on the previous point, you will be a respected and appreciated member of the education team in the eyes of other SEAs, teachers and parents.

– Not everyone has the opportunity to help build a world of inclusivity and tolerance, but you will be able to help guide a special needs student through integration in a traditional classroom while also assisting traditional students in understanding the lives of individuals with special needs. Taking an education assistant program will help you learn how to do that.

– Because you are in a classroom environment but aren’t a teacher per se, you can interact with other students from your classroom (and other classes) and become an ally when they have needs that require input from a trusted adult.

– An integrated classroom can be very distracting for a special needs student. Just like being out in a non-school world of distractions! You’re helping students with special needs learn to deal with distractions and function positively in everyday environments with their peers.

– Every single day you’ll be earning the respect of your coworkers, students, administrators and family members.

The job of a special education assistant is a challenging one with a lot of areas to consider. For those who want to make a difference in the world and want to help create more inclusive communities, the pros of the job outweigh the cons.


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