If you are a graduate looking to start a career in SEN teaching, or seeking some practical experience for a career in psychology or therapy, then the chances are your first job will be a school-based role such as an SEN teaching assistant or learning support assistant. You may have left university with a degree that helps you understand the ins and outs of SEN education in theory, but are you prepared for a more practical role? This guide will help you prepare for working with students with SEN, so that you have a positive impact on your pupils, impress your colleagues and take a step closer to your dream job.
#1 Start slow
Depending on the type of special educational need, children have to be eased into social interaction. If you are working on a 1:1 basis with a pupil, it isn’t recommended to go full steam ahead, demanding answers and barking orders. Instead you should speak to a pupil with Special Education Needs in a politer, more delicate way. Introduce yourself first, explain to them that you are going to be helping them, what work you would like them to do and why. Then once you get started you can get to know them better and offer encouragement.
#2 Keep and an eye on them
Pupils with SEN sometimes have trouble verbalising their discomfort, as they often feel the need to avoid discussing how they feel and admitting when they are getting upset or frustrated. This is why you should always make sure you are monitoring them closely, reading their expression for clues as to how they are feeling. Be attentive towards their behaviours and try to overcome a potential obstacle before the situation sees their emotions get the better of them, resulting in a disruptive situation.
#3 Stay calm and positive
Like any job, working with children who have special educational needs comes with plenty of surprises, which can mean your day goes from good to bad very quickly. So keeping calm in a difficult situation is key and understand that every change in a child’s mood is not your fault. Getting stressed about it won’t help you or your pupils, and keeping positive is the best way to get children under control and focussed on learning.
#4 Be flexible
If you have a teaching assistant job or learning support assistant job that does not have you working on a 1:1 capacity, it is important to ensure you are using the right methods for the right child. You will have learnt during your education that an Autistic child will have different needs than a child with an emotional and behavioural disorder, and there is no definitive method that will be successful with all pupils. . Different children require different kind of support and a different manner, so don’t expect one tactic to work for every child.
#5 Be consistent and stick to a routine.
This one is perhaps an obvious tip as it is true for all teachers, but it is doubly true for SEN teaching. Pupils with Special Educational Needs feel most comfortable when working within a consistent routine, so always plan ahead and stay organised.