How Can I Apply for a Special Needs Assistant (SNA)?

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has just completed a review of the Special Needs Assistant (SNA) Scheme in Ireland, and is available for download from their website.

The role of an SNA is to support a child who has special educational needs who may struggle to take part in school activities with. These include toileting, for example, or because they have complex medical or behavioural needs. Additional needs can stem from significant medical, physical, sensory (hearing and visual), communication, and or learning needs.

In sum, an SNA’s role is to provide non-teaching support for children with additional needs.

If you feel that your child may have such needs and that they would benefit from SNA support, the first step is to discuss this with their teacher so that a decision can be made on whether to apply to the NCSE for SNA support.

In an Irish study (Daly and Ring et al, 2016), it was found that SNAs are central to supporting the inclusion of autistic children across the school system. However the research also indicated that, in not all cases, was SNA support being appropriately provided as SNAs were engaging in teaching activities, which are the remit of the class teacher. 

It is therefore crucial that you keep in touch with your child’s teacher and their SNA with regular meetings throughout the school term to ensure that your child is getting as much support as they need.

Further Information & Links

AsIAm School Handbooks for Parents

Do’s & Don’ts of Autism-Friendly Practices

Pocket Guide to Autism

Professionals in Special Education

Dr Emer Ring is the Head of the Department of Reflective Pedagogy and Early Childhood Studies at Mary Immaculate College, Limerick. As part of our #BackToRoutine series for beginning the new school term, she’s answered a number of commonly asked questions and concerns families have when starting school.

This article is one person’s advice and opinion. It does not necessarily reflect the views and positions of AsIAm as an organisation. If you’d like to share your own story about your experiences with autism, email us at

Skip to content