Childcare & Special Needs Assisting
Childcare and Special Needs Assisting has become increasingly popular in Ireland over the last few years. In a sense, the childcare sector has finally gotten the recognition it deserves. Our government has created new legislations, frameworks and regulations to protect develop and enable childcare in Ireland to reach higher standards. Unfortunately, the Special Needs Sector was, to say, late to the party when it came to input from government resources and only in the last couple of years, this sector has grown and developed in its inclusivity and availability.
For too long, children with special educational requirements were not given the quality care provision that they required in order to gain the same level of education of their peers in mainstream schools. This is where the role of the Special Needs Assistant differs from that of an Early Years Practitioner. In this blog post, I will discuss what separates and joins the roles of the Special Needs Assistant and the Early Years Educator.
Special Needs Assisting
A special needs assistant plays a vital role in any special or additional needs child, in either a Mainstream School or a Special Education School. Their role is to assist a class teacher with students who require special educational needs and care. The special needs assistant works under the supervision of a classroom teacher and School Principle. The SNA usually supports a number of special education children in the classroom, to provide them with the care and support they need.
The duties of an SNA are broad. An SNA can do anything ranging from preparing classrooms for the day; they can assist in the daily care of Special Needs children, for instance assisting in feeding and general hygiene. The SNA can also assist during school outings and activities. An SNA is extremely important to any additional or special need child, because they deserve the same attention and care as their peers in school.
An SNA is primarily involved in working with Primary or Secondary school age children. Many parents who have additional or special needs children also take part in SNA courses. This is because it allows them to learn about their child, and how to provide them with the best care and attention befitting of their needs.
The role of the childcare practitioner is to look after young children, toddlers and babies in a setting such as day care centre or a private home. They are responsible for providing children with a safe environment to play, learn, and help children to develop basic behavioural and social skills. The Childcare practitioners provide safe, loving, and supportive supervision and care of young children in their care. They engage children in age-appropriate play activities, plan curriculums that attend to the interests of the children in their care, organize outings and teach each child the skills that they need in life in order to gain the most out of their ongoing development.
The childcare practitioner also creates an environment that includes every child in their care. This involves working with relevant childcare legislations and frameworks that teaches the childcare practitioner how to hone their childcare skills. This will then lead to the childcare practitioner to gain the confidence to set up appropriate play and learning areas for the children in their care. These play areas, which ensure child development, include, solitary play, exercises focused on artistic expression, and quiet time.
Other roles of the childcare practitioner include supervising groups of children in adherence to ratio quotas, usually within a limited age range, depending on which area in the centre you are an assistant/leader in. These caregivers create lesson plans and organize activities throughout the day.
They often supervise indoor and outdoor play, engage with children one-on-one, and teach a variety of basic skills. The childcare practitioner also work with the parents of children to ensure that all requirements and needs are met when it comes to the care of their children.
Working in Childcare
Working in childcare is an incredibly rewarding job. The benefits and support you gain working in either Special Needs Assisting or Childcare, really make the studying and hard work worth it. If you are unsure as to whether you would prefer to practice Special Needs Assisting or Childcare, I would suggest the following.
If you have a deep interest in working with school age children on a more one to one basis, and if you would prefer to work hours that work in tandem with family life, then Special Needs Assisting would be the course for you.
If you are interested in learning about a child as a whole, and would love to help children develop from 6 months to 5 years old. If you also have an interest in different types of childcare, curriculum planning, development in children, then working as a childcare practitioner would benefit you more. Working in childcare and completing childcare courses, can also allow you to progress more. You could progress into degree programmes, which would allow you to work for Government Agencies specialising in Childcare and you can progress into teaching also.
Whichever path you choose in childcare, you will always ensure that all children, no matter their age, are availing of the care, attention and education that they require and most importantly, deserve.