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Thread: Educational Assistant to special needs children.

  1. #1 Educational Assistant to special needs children. 
    Forum Ph.D. stander-j's Avatar
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    So, I've just sort of stumbled my way into the possibility of being employed part-time as an EA for special needs children. The school provides all the training, as well as advice, and supervision etc. I think I may find this job to be rewarding, a good experience, and a nice way to earn a bit of cash throughout my following year in school.

    I'd like to ask for some advice from the lot of you though. Namely, those who have experience with education, and especially those with experience with Special Needs children. I'd just like to go in already having some extra tips/advice.


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    1 Ugly MoFo warthog213's Avatar
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    Extreme patience (like a rock) and always (observe) their likes and dislikes..... And probably learn to do away with word no and turn it to a yes as much as possible . You know I have a good friend who lives in Minnesota who does this for a living. She is awesome at working with special needs children and I will ask her about this. It will probably be a few days til I get a reply so be patient.... One thing that I can tell you is that not every child will like you and some will just love you to death. I do remember her telling me about some of the children and some just loved her and some she didn't get along so well. Anyways good luck to you and hope that you enjoy the job....


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  4. #3  
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    My husband and I ran a private tuition business for schoolchildren with learning difficulties - depends where you are whether some, many, most of our students would have fitted the special needs categories you'd be dealing with. Some were pretty 'normal' but were 4 (or more) years behind because a hearing or vision problem hadn't been identified and/or dealt with in early years. A few had significant intellectual impairments. However, we didn't have facilities for children with physical problems - no disabled toilets or convenient wheelchair access.

    One thing I'd heartily recommend you read fairly soon. A book by John Mighton called " The Myth of Ability". You won't be able to use his program for teaching itself, he's designed a community wide teaching-tuition scheme based on his ideas. What you will get from the first few chapters is an insight into your own and others' presumptions about the apparent limitations of students who've been classified as intellectually disabled.

    The other thing you should be prepared for - if you're lucky it won't be an issue - is that many children classified as special 'needs' are extremely disruptive, badly behaved and downright rude. The only thing special about such needs is that some children (and their parents I might warn you) seem to think that their inability to read or count is entirely unrelated to their refusal to sit down, shut up and listen. Funnily enough, the few students we had with significant intellectual problems (as against learning issues like dyslexia in its myriad forms or mild/marginal intellectual delay) were some of the best behaved students we ever had. They were really glad every time they mastered something they found difficult. In our situation, charging fees for private tuition, we were able to deal with such children by simply telling them not to come back if all our other strategies had failed. This had a remarkably good effect on the behaviour of other students, because they all liked coming to us and didn't want to suffer the same fate.

    If you're in the UK, you could be lucky or unlucky in the role you find yourself in. Lucky? You'll find yourself with sensible, caring people who make the work reasonably enjoyable. There's also the issue in some areas of inclusion policies. Some severely impaired students are in mainstream classes for reasons entirely unrelated to their capacity to benefit from them. They make a lot of work for staff for little to no observable educational result. Unlucky? You'll find yourself bombarded with educational theory 'guff' that makes diagnoses of problems an excuse for failure rather than a plan for action to deal with the difficulties the child faces.

    And, let's be honest, they do face real problems - even if they or their parents can be pretty difficult to deal with some (or all) of the time. You won't be responsible for designing their learning programs, but you will have to work at getting the student to learn, or ready to learn.

    If you're in the UK have a look at TES forums for general info. http://community.tes.co.uk/forums/59.aspx In the USA, there are hugely different processes and approaches in different states.
    stander-j likes this.
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    And another thing now I come to think of it. When we first started I didn't do any direct tuition. What I did do was to 'patrol' students working on computers while the tutors were working with other students. Why? To stop the negative self-talk. "I can't do this." "I'm too dumb." "This is dumb."

    One thing you have to get straight - and show kids one way or another. If you think (or say) you can't do something - then you really can't do it.

    Many of them have learned, whether anyone has said it to them or not, that they're 'too stupid' to understand stuff. And that gets reinforced every time they fail to, or refuse to, write down what's needed for a maths/arithmetic problem or to check with a dictionary or spelling list for correct vocabulary or spelling. They have taught themselves to avoid the stress of failure - by the simple expedient of not trying.

    Never, ever, ever tell them that poor work is good or wonderful work. What you need to do is to find something, anything, in the ghastly mess where you can honestly say 'See. You're getting better at ......" without pretending that something unacceptable is good quality work. I found ways to hand out stickers for practically everything - but never falsely rewarded poor work as though it was good.

    Though I confess you do have to acknowledge when they have, in fact, really, truly tried and put in seriously hard work and still managed to come up with a near unreadable project or assignment. This is a frequent problem with dyslexics and students with serious auditory processing issues - they are literally incapable of accurate spelling or neat work if the dyslexia is accompanied by its evil twin, dysgraphia.
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
    "nature is like a game of Jenga; you never know which brick you pull out will cause the whole stack to collapse" Lucy Cooke
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  6. #5  
    Forum Ph.D. stander-j's Avatar
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    Thank-you A-lady, and I live in Canada - the mother of one of the students runs their set-up, she was very nice and said I should expect help from their tutors, and that one of them has Senior status (All she said was that this tutor was given a senior position because he has worked with many children all over Canada, and has been doing this for many years). I will definitley pick up the book you recommended. From what I understand I'd mainly be helping with Autistic children. Anyway, thank-you for letting me know what I should be prepared for.

    Thanks to you as well, WH, I'd really appreciate it if you'd do that. I look forward to hearing what your friend might have to say.
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    Autistic? I don't envy you. But there are a lot of pretty good programs and strategies around now. We had a few quite clever Asperger syndrome kids - the sort who couldn't understand why they should show their working. Really didn't understand about the role of the marker in exams. And one memorable extremely unpleasant one, I always had the feeling that if the parents had brought him in sooner than year 10 he just might possibly in the best imaginable universe have turned out a bit better.

    The only non-verbal autistic kid I know is a severely disabled child in the family - can't feed himself at 10 years old. So nothing in my experience would help with any of those students.
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
    "nature is like a game of Jenga; you never know which brick you pull out will cause the whole stack to collapse" Lucy Cooke
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  8. #7  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope sculptor's Avatar
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    "autistic" is broadly and i suspect overly diagnosed
    i had worked with "autistic" children 40 odd years ago, and
    my advice\
    just because some do not communicate well, doesn't mean they do not understand
    they need help
    and the best help you can give is to treat each child as a person worthy of your caring and intellect
    when others have "given up" on these children, they suffer
    don't give up on them
    and they will amaze you and your fellow staff members
    help them without catagorizing them
    if i felt something needed to be done for one of them, I always asked if it was OK before doing what i thought needed doing
    eg "may i tie your shoe?" as i prepared to do just that, and with the words and action, we communicated

    good luck and
    enjoy
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  9. #8  
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    Hi,

    Firstly, i must congratulate you that you are doing a great job. Children with special needs require a particular kind of attention. It is important for those who are into this field to act patiently with such kinds of children. It is important for the teachers to communicate with them in the right manner. I had personally interacted with a teacher few years back who was teaching in one of the schools with students of special needs. I was amazed to actually see how patiently she used to sit and make every student understand what she was discussing in class. I believe child with special needs just require a bit of attention and affection, so that they can face the world without much problem.
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