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5 Key Skills Employers Look For In Special Educational Needs Teaching Assistants

SEN teaching assistant working with child

An SEN TA (Special Educational Needs Teaching Assistant) needs a variety of skills to support a diverse range of students and help them meet their individual learning goals.

For example, the SEN skills required could include sign language, if a student is deaf, or different techniques to teach a student to read and write if they are dyslexic. 

To be able to effectively support SEN students, an SEN Teaching Assistant needs strong personal skills as well as relevant qualifications and experience in a special educational needs environment. 

If you’re considering applying for an SEN Teaching Assistant Job, then the 6 Ways to Succeed in an SEN Teaching Assistant Job Interview, may be worth reading to help you prepare for an interview, if your application is successful.

Below is a list of personal qualities that a prospective employer will be looking for in an SEN Teaching Assistant. Hopefully, these will be traits that you already possess and they should be demonstrated in your SEN Teaching Assistant CV. 

1) Patience

Working in an SEN environment is extremely rewarding, but since every student’s learning needs will differ it can be very challenging. As an SEN Teaching Assistant, you will need to be able to remain calm in stressful situations and approach the challenge with a high level of patience. 

An example where remaining calm and showing patience is imperative could be if you have a student with behavioural difficulties. The student may not be able to communicate or listen to instruction very well, so when learning new material, this may become frustrating for them. 

SEN teaching assistant helping student

2) Flexibility

As an SEN Teaching Assistant, you will be supporting students who may have physical disabilities as well as students with behavioural, emotional, and social difficulties. To be able to effectively provide support in the classroom, you will need to adjust your teaching methods accordingly, which means flexibility is vital. 

For example, some students may have sensory difficulties, which may affect their ability to learn, so you will need to be versatile in your teaching approach, delivering material in various formats, such as through text, images, or by using a more hands-on method.

SEN teaching assistant covered in paint

3) Social and Communicative Skills

Good sociable and communicative skills will be required as an SEN Teaching Assistant.

In a school setting, whether that be an SEN or mainstream school, a large team will be working together to provide a safe and well-structured learning environment. For SEN students, there’ll be even more people working collaboratively, so you’ll need to effectively liaise with other teachers and professionals to ensure each individual’s needs are being met. 

As previously mentioned, some SEN students may have difficulty communicating or listening, which makes it all the more important for an SEN Teaching Assistant to be an effective communicator. 

SEN students need clear classroom rules and for learning material to be broken down into segments that they can easily understand, both of which can only be achieved through good communication.

Teaching assistant communicating with child

4) Creative

Classes must be stimulating for the students. As an SEN Teaching Assistant, you should design lesson plans that aid your SEN Teacher as well as fully support your students.

Some students may learn better through the use of visuals, so these must be implemented in the classroom. For example, pictures alongside text may help students to grasp the content easier. 

Also, visual material could be provided for students to refer to regularly, such as posters and models, which will help to improve their memory.  

Another strategy to help SEN students remember their lesson content could be through music. Encouraging SEN students to sing will not only improve their confidence, but it will help them to remember key aspects of the lesson content. 

Child filling out work in class

5) Sensitivity and Empathy

To be a successful SEN Teaching Assistant, a high level of sensitivity and empathy will be required. Not only will these traits help you to effectively assess each student’s needs and plan their learning route accordingly, but they will also help you to remain patient since you’ll have some understanding of your student’s mindset. 

Sensitivity and empathy also play an important part when it comes to supporting people from different backgrounds and cultures. 

Additionally, students who have physical, behavioural, or emotional difficulties tend to not always find it easy to empathise with others, so your ability to demonstrate empathy will be key to teaching students this trait. 

If you feel you have what it takes to be an SEN Teaching Assistant, then ActiveSEN is currently recruiting for a wide range of jobs in SEN environments, so search and apply for an SEN job today.  

Alternatively, submit your CV if you’d like to hear about the latest SEN job opportunities.

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