A special needs assistant works specifically with one or more students who have special needs. The number of students each assistant will work with varies, depending upon the level of need each student requires.
Many special needs assistants work with only one student, because this one student cannot truly function on his or her own, for whatever reason. An assistant who works one-on-one with a student with special needs will spend the entire day with this student-the assistant's responsibilities may include monitoring the student, helping the student perform everyday skills, teaching the student new life skills, and/or assisting the student in the learning process by clarifying or re-explaining what the teacher says.
Sometimes the primary issue with a student with special needs is the way the disability affects his or her behavior. In these instances, the aide might seek to help the child learn appropriate behavior through a program of positive reinforcement and relevant consequences. The assistant would also make sure the child's behavior does not negatively impact the learning of other students in the class and in the school. This may mean removing the child from the classroom to work more privately with the student.
Other times, the primary issue is that a child simply cannot perform basic life skills alone. In these cases, the assistant essentially guides the child through the entire day, providing assistance when necessary. Sometimes the problem is that a child has a physical disability, in which case the assistant would help the child perform tasks he or she cannot perform with the disability. Or, perhaps the child suffers from autism and cannot communicate or correctly socialize with other people in the school. In this case, the assistant would essentially monitor and help this student throughout the day.
A special needs assistant might also work with several students who do not require as much assistance. This assistant would work with several students with learning disabilities who can otherwise function normally. During tests, the assistant may take the students out of the classroom, either to read the test to them or to simply provide them with a quieter and more private work environment. Also, during instruction, the aide may work with these students in a smaller group to re-teach or re-enforce concepts that may be challenging to them.
Special needs assistants are crucial to a school because they help prevent teachers from being spread too thin. Furthermore, they provide the necessary attention to students with more intensive needs that will help them succeed, as well as keep them from falling through the cracks. An assistant who works with students with special needs can expect great fulfillment and confidence in knowing that the student or students he or she works with will be forever impacted by the individual help they receive!