To Teaching Assistants

With only a few days until school starts again, here is my advice for TAs of special needs children.

For all of my girls school life so far she has had a TA with her.
Up until this year we were very lucky and had amazing TAs, who I realise now, I took for granted.
As she starts her new adventure in a new school here is what I have learnt;
The true qualities that I believe a Special Needs TA needs to have.

Some advice:

• Learn about the childs’ diagnosis.
An obvious one you would have thought! It is so hard leaving your child in the care of someone who has no idea, or doesn’t understand, the differences that your child has.

• Take time to get to know the child.
Get to know the child for who they are. The child IS NOT a diagnosis. They are still a child, but a child with extra needs and requirements.

• Take time to get to know the parents.
The parents are a font of knowledge and the gateway to your success in communicating with the child.
Chances are they know more about the childs’ diagnosis then the people who diagnosed them.
They are the people who know them, understand them and can read their every movement.
Gain their trust.

• Be there for the parents.
Even if it is just a 2 minute ‘hello’ in the morning. Ask how their night was, allow them to offload. It will help them feel supported

• Understand that home life is very different to school life.
Please NEVER say “well, they are not like that when they are here!” It is the single most patronising phrase that makes the parents feel awful.
A child can learn to keep it together all day in school but then as soon as they get home out flood their emotions.
If they say “my child had a meltdown and bit me” don’t reply as above, help them to identify what may have triggered it.

• Fill in the Home/School book.
With anything. Not with just what YOU think is relevant. If they did PE, ran around, banged a limb, dropped a drink…..it is not useless information, they are potential triggers of a meltdown. It would help us immensely!
•Don’t assume we are just being over protective.
We may come across as being as such but it is because we are anxious that we are leaving our child in your care with a variety of needs and communication difficulties that only we can explain.
Please listen.

• Support the parents.
If they can trust you, the relationship will be a valuable asset to your caring.
Please don’t criticise how we cope, how we discipline or our ways of caring and teaching, we know that these work for our child. Yes they may be very different to school methods, but they work for us and the child as an individual.

•Offer a cup of tea now and again.
Optional of course, but a TA I know has said if they can see a carer may have had a long night she will invite them in for a quiet 5 minutes and a cup of tea.
Imagine how happy and supported that would make them feel.

•Above all, and most important, remember the child is still a child. Not a statistic.
Each child is unique, each child is different.
Embrace, accept and work with who they are, not what their diagnosis says they should be.

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