Special needs assistants are an essential part of the school system, and need for them has risen since the turn of the century as schools have become more inclusive of special needs children. Special needs assistants do not generally need a college education, and this kind of work is therefore excellent for those who enjoy working with children but do not necessarily have the formal qualifications to be a teacher.
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The primary duty of a special needs assistant is to make education inclusive to special needs students. This is generally done on a one-on-one basis in a classroom. The teacher teaches the class as a whole while the special needs assistant works exclusively with a child with special needs. The specific duties vary widely depending on the child--some children need comprehensive help from teacher's aids, while some simply need a little bit of supervision or support.
Three groups of people benefit from the existence of special needs assistants. The first is the special needs student. With the help of an assistant, a child with special needs can still attend school and learn, an often impossible task without help. The second beneficiary is the teacher. Since special needs children often need a very specific teaching style and curriculum, it is difficult or impossible for a teacher to teach both her class and the student at the same time. The presence of a special needs assistant means the teacher is not spread too thin and is therefore better-equipped to do his job. Finally, the other students in the class benefit from the teacher's ability to give them his full attention and from the special needs assistant's ability to keep the special needs child from being too disruptive.
Special needs assistants require only a high school diploma. However, schools give preference to applicants with at least some college education in a related field, like education. Associate degrees exist that prepare graduates for special needs assistant jobs.
Special needs assistants must be able to pass a background check, and they often must have a driver's license. They need to be patient and often physically fit because of the lifting that is involved with special needs children. They need to be familiar with a school system's rules and procedures, and prepared to abide by them. Finally, they need to be able to do clerical work, as special needs students generally require a great deal of documentation to track their progress.
As of 2010, special needs assistants had an average job outlook. The amount of children with special needs is not necessarily on the rise, but turnover is high and the population as a whole is growing, which means that the special needs population is also growing.
As of June 2010, the lowest 10 per cent of special needs assistants earned less than £9,750 per year, while the highest 10 per cent earned over £21,450 per year. The middle 50 per cent earned between roughly £11,700 per year and roughly £18,200 per year. It is very important to note that special needs assistant jobs are not generally full-time. This means that not only do they not provide 40 hours a week worth of work, but they also generally do not come with benefits like health insurance.
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