How to help special needs children- loving them is the key!

Today I’m so excited to introduce to you a new-found friend at Wealthy Affiliate who works with special needs children for a long time and is so passionate about it.

Her name is Angela but the kids usually call her Mrs N ( N being the first letter of her last name, which the kids apparently have a hard time saying it. It’s kind of a tongue-twister, you know! )

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How did I find her ? 

The Wealthy Affiliate community has this  “helping each other succeed” attitude and one day, she posted a comment in one of my blogs where she said she is a Special Needs Educational Assistant, so I emailed and asked her if she wanted to share her experiences in her job.

She was very nice to reply and said yes! 

 So here goes her story on how to help special needs children, which basically starts with loving all kinds of kids.

BTW, she is also the founder of Your Aromatherapy Store, so please check her out on her website youraromatherapystore.com.

Being a Special Educational Assistant is a calling.

How many years have you been a Special Needs Educational Assistant ( SNEA )? Please elaborate on what you do.

“I have spent the last 19 years working as a SNEA in specialized diagnostic classrooms located in a rehabilitation hospital. This hospital has a contract with the local school board to provide educational services to the students while they are in program in the hospital.

The program I work with uses a team approach to assess the children. Our team consists of a teacher, an assistant ( me ), a nurse, physiotherapist, physiotherapist assistant, speech and language pathologist, speech and language assistant, a pediatrician, and a neurologist.

The classroom I work in services children in grades 1-3. The students who attend our classroom have been referred by physicians. They come as day patients for six weeks. Some reasons for referral can include: learning difficulties, social issues, speech and language concerns, neurological queries, physical issues and medication trials. Numerous testing and evaluations are completed during their stay.

After six weeks with us, the students may return to their previous schools or another more appropriate classroom in the community that better suits their needs.”

What groups of special kids are you handling?

“The groups of students that I work with changes five times throughout the school year. Every group is unique. Some are quite easy to work with and some are quite challenging depending on their needs.”

What motivated you to become a Special Needs Educational Assistant?

” Many years ago, I was employed in a group home that was providing service to some children from out of province. 

During that time, it was decided that these children needed to be in school. The school board created a classroom to support their needs. 

The classroom needed an assistant and since I knew the children well, I decided to apply for the job. When these particular children left the province and returned to their homes, I continued my employment with the school board and began working in the diagnostic program in the rehabilitation hospital.

That was almost 20 years ago now. Time sure flies! “

How do you work with the Special Education teacher on a typical day?

” Every morning I greet the children and parents from their buses. If medications are needed, we stop to see the nurse before heading outside for some fresh air before school begins. At the end of recess, we go to our classroom and begin the day.

I lead circle time, using the smartboard, while the Special Education teacher works with the children one on one to assess their reading skills.

( During the six week stay, the students are taken out of the classroom regularly for assessments and tests by our team members. )

When it is time for recess, I take the children out to the public playground ( on the hospital premises ).

 I also spend lunch time with them. At times, some of our students have eating issues that need to be monitored and any problems reported to the healthcare professionals on our team.

Much of my day is spent assisting the teacher and professionals that work in our classroom. My duties can change depending on what the children need.

At the end of the day, I make sure the students meet up with their parents or get on their proper buses to go home.”

Do you have any struggles or big challenges on being a Special Needs Educational Assistant?

” The only challenge or struggle that I can think of is building a relationship with children in a six week time frame. It often feels like I am just getting to really know them and then it is time for them to leave our program. There is nothing I can do about this, as it is just the nature of the way things work in our classroom.

Other than that, I don’t have any BIG challenges or struggles. I am so blessed to work with a team of people who are always there and ready to lend a hand when needed.”

How do you handle a very difficult child?

Sometimes, I find I need to change my expectations. If a child is unable to sit still, be quiet, finish work, walk in line down the hallway, etc., it’s okay. Some children are just not capable of doing these things. They don’t mean to be disobedient and they are not always intentionally trying to disobey the rules.

I try to show them understanding and love.

There have been times that I cannot change my expectations for safety reasons. The student must listen and obey. For example, if at the end of recess and a student refuses to leave the playground with the group, I will kindly explain to them the reasons why they can’t stay on their own and if need be, they will be helped back to the classroom. I do this in a patient way and they will usually comply. 

In our classroom, we have a time out chair. When we are introducing the children to the classroom, we NEVER present it to them as such. We call it a Calming Chair and we invite them to use it on their own whenever they are feeling upset or just need a break.

When it is positively presented this way, instead of in a negative way, I find many children will just go there on their own before any escalation begins.

It’s so neat to see kids make use of this Calming Chair on their own.”

How are the parents involved in the progress of their kids? Do you take an active role in talking to the parents about this or any concern at all?

” There are numerous meetings with parents throughout the six week term.

There is an intake meeting with the team prior to program starting.

There are two meetings at the end of the term where the team meets with parents and then with the parents and the school to present the findings of all the diagnostic testing and assessments.

During the term, the team and parents communicate via a book that is sent back and forth between home and school.

If the parents would like, they are also invited to do an observation visit. This means they are welcome to watch the program through a one way mirror and if they have questions during observation, they have access to a medical professional whom they can ask.

I am not involved in the meeting per se. I will often communicate with parents in an informal manner at bus times. If important questions or concerns arise, I will pass them on to the appropriate person on the team.”

How do you feel at the end of a school day?

 There are days that I go home mentally exhausted and some days I am just fine. It all depends on the particular group of kids that we have in the program at that time. “

What makes you happy or fulfilled on a certain day?

Just being around kids makes me happy.

My job is generally fulfilling, in that, it is great to see kids getting the help they need.

When they leave our program, they usually leave with their school or parents having a better understanding about how to help them.

Perhaps they will leave with a diagnosis that will provide them with extra resources that might make life easier, maybe a medication to make them feel better.

Honestly, most days are quite fulfilling and I love that part of my job. “

Any advise/s on those who want to pursue a career as a Special Needs Educational Assistant?

 You have to love kids, all kinds of kids to do this job. 

To be honest, you need to be okey with a little excitement, too.

There are days when the children are in bad mood, they might try to hit, kick, punch, etc. You need to be aware of your personal space and know who and what to watch for.

I learned the hard way many years ago. I was trying to help a child who was very upset. I ended up with two black eyes, I should have not been in the child’s space. I could have helped him from a little further back and not had the injury.

That only happened once, that is all it took, I learned about personal space and body positioning, ha ha!

Despite the potential for things to go bad, and they do, there are many, many moments that make all  so worth it.

I guess, I am saying if a person wants to pursue this kind of career, it is best that they have tough skin, so to speak. “

How do you de-stress after a difficult day?

 There are usually a few minutes of time left at work after the students leave, if there has been some difficulty, we usually de-brief as a team to discuss it. I find this helpful.

When I get home, I like to do some mindful meditation or yoga, to de-stress as well. “

There’s a point in our career that we realize we have made a difference in someone’s life, in your case a special child’s life. Please share with our readers.

” I have been fortunate enough to be involved in the process of changing many children’s lives. It might be a diagnosis, a medication, or strategies.

Most children we see in our program leave with some help that will benefit them for a lifetime. I love this part of the job.

Sometimes, the kids come back and visit us years later. It is so rewarding to see the progress they have made and to know that we were a little part of it. “

What is the best lesson that you have learned from a special child/ren?

” I have met many children during my career, it is hard to pinpoint just one child and one lesson that I learned.

I have learned much in the last two decades. I suppose the biggest and most important thing I have learned from children is this, “ It is possible to be happy and enjoy life, despite all obstacles. “

I have seen so many kids with so much going against them and somehow they still go on and make the best of it. “

 

Working with kids has been bringing joy and still is to Angela, our dear Special Needs Educational Assistant. She has started her career with the greatest lesson in life, “Love the kids, all kinds of kids.”

And then every working day is a miracle unfold.

Thanks so much Ms N for sharing your experiences. You are an inspiration to others who would like to embark on the same career as yours.

 

Would you like to know Angela better and find out her other passions? Please follow her and visit her website youraromatherapystore.com.

 

Is your child with special needs bonding really well with her Special Needs Educational Assistant? Share your story with us.

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Marita

I am a doctor by profession who had several years of clinical practice as a Pediatrician and General Practitioner. At present, I work as a Clinical Research Assistant in a large university. Pangga ta ikaw remembers fondly a loved one who passed away and making her demise more meaningful. Supporting children with special needs in our hometown in the Philippines through Special Education is our main focus and through this website, we also aim at making everyone realize that special kids need our love and support.

15 thoughts on “How to help special needs children- loving them is the key!”

  1. It takes someone with a kind and loving heart to care for special needs children. Angela sounds like she is very knowledgeable and passionate about what she does- great article!

    1. True, it takes passion and dedication to take care of children with special needs. Angela has worked for such a long time with this type of kids that loving and serving them is second nature to her. The kids and their parents are so lucky to have her.

      Thanks for your nice comments.

      Marita

      1. Hi Marita,
        Thanks for the awesome job you did generating the article. I feel very honored that you asked to interview me.
        I return to work tomorrow to start a new school term. I am excited to learn about the kids attending program. It is always interesting!
        Take Care
        Angela

        1. Hi Angela,

          I am always so appreciative of people who work with children ( even adults ) with special needs. They have lots of patience and dedication, that being with these kids, you bring a lot of hope for them.
          You are one of those people that I honor, and I hope you will always find fulfillment in your job.

          Cheers,
          Marita

  2. What a great post about Angela and the children she helps! She sounds like a very caring person sharing her life with children who have special needs.

    Having worked closely with homeless and once homeless, special needs adults, I know the time, energy, love, and patience required, but it is soooo fulfilling! I imagine that Angela wouldn’t trade her work for anything else. When doing this work, those we help often become as special to us as our own family members.

    Very nice to hear how Angela is touching lives and making a difference. Keep up the great work, Angela! And…keep those great posts coming, Marita!

    1. Hi Colleen,

      Just like you, I do really appreciate people who devote their time in caring for children and individuals with special needs and YOU and ANGELA are one of them. Definitely, they have dedication and passion to cater to the needs of their students and clients everyday.

      Thanks for passing by. I promise to keep writing about these special needs/ education teachers and assistants. If you know somebody, please tell me so I can connect with them.

      God bless,
      Marita

      1. Hey Marita… thank you for your kind words. I will be happy to let you know of other people serving special needs individuals, so you can decide if you want to write about their work as well.

        Blessings!
        Colleen

        1. Hi Colleen,

          Yes, I’m excited to interview other people working with special needs individuals and hopefully their experiences inspire other people to take up jobs like theirs so our kids or family members with special needs get the care and support that they need to be the best that they can be.

          Cheers,
          Marita

    2. Hi Colleen,
      How nice of you to comment on this article. It sounds like you have had experience doing similar work. Working with homeless, special needs individuals would require a great deal of patience and love for sure! You must have found that quite satisfying as well.
      Thanks for your kind words here.
      Take good care.
      Angela

      1. Hi Angela… Yes, there are many challenges every day when working with special needs individuals. Many of my homeless or recently homeless clients have had trauma-related mental health challenges, traumatic brain injuries with severe short-term memory loss, multiple physical disabilities, addictive behaviors, and felony criminal charges. In serving as their case manager and patient advocate, I have worked closely with law enforcement, probation officers, attorneys, and judges, as well as with nearly all aspects of the medical and mental health community, etc. Every day can be a great adventure with puzzle pieces to delicately and strategically put together. Very fulfilling work!

        I look forward to hearing updates about your work in Marita’s future posts.

        You’re a blessing to many!
        Colleen

  3. That story really touched my heart! I understood what Mrs. N was saying about just getting to know the child and then your time with them is gone! I worked with children most of my adult life, and I always felt that way! I could feel the love she has for the kids, it really came through. Thanks so much!

    1. Hi Babsie,

      Children are really angels in our midst, moreso, those with special needs. Yes, Angela has devoted a long time to these kids, so I’m sure she is  so dedicated to them and their concerns.

      What did you do for the kids in your job?

       I know they are so lovable and easy to bond with. They do touch our lives for sure.

      Thanks for reading!

      Cheers,

      Marita

  4. Hello Marita,
    Very inspiring article. I am also a teacher and we have a special department in our school called Challengers. Sometimes, we help their teachers. As you said, the teachers should be of special traits so that they could teach special needs.
    I totally agree with you that being surrounded by kids, any kids will make us very happy.
    I wish you great success in your work and business.
    Rania

    1. Hi Rania,

      I’ve always believed that teachers like you need to be honored for their passion in their craft. You are the foundation of everybody’s success.

      More so with teachers and assistants of special needs kids who have double or triple dedication for their job.

      Thanks for passing by and for your good wishes.

      Marita

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