In this section, we will outline the role of the SNA, how the child’s need for SNA support is determined and how to apply for this support.
What is an SNA?
Special Needs Assistants make an enormous contribution in supporting those with autistic children through their time in education. It can be difficult to sum up the role of an SNA because so many go above and beyond the call of duty to help and assist autistic children who they are assigned to.
The Department of Education and Skills defines the role of an SNA as:
- Preparation and tidying up of classroom(s) in which the pupil(s) with special needs is/are being taught.
- Assisting children to board and alight from school buses. Where necessary travel as escort on school buses may be required.
- Special assistance as necessary for pupils with particular difficulties e.g. helping physically disabled pupils with typing or writing.
- Assistance with clothing, feeding, toileting and general hygiene.
- Assisting on out-of-school visits, walks and similar activities
- Assisting teachers in the supervision of children with special needs during assembly, recreational and dispersal periods.
- Accompanying individuals or small groups who may have withdrawn temporarily from the classroom.
- General assistance to the class teachers, under the direction of the Principal, with duties of a non-teaching nature. (Special Needs Assistants may not act as either substitute or temporary teachers. In no circumstances may they be left in sole charge of a class).
- Where a Special Needs Assistant has been appointed to assist a school in catering for a specific pupil, duties should be modified to support the particular needs of the pupil concerned
How can my child access SNA support?
In order for a student to qualify for SNA support, they must display significant care needs which require additional support. Examples of significant care needs may involve:
- assistance with feeding;
- general hygiene;
- mobility, orientation;
- withdrawal for safety or personal care;
- severe communication difficulties;
- administration of medicines, and/or;
- a need for additional supervision.
The student must also have a diagnosis of disability under one or more of the following categories;
- physical disability;
- hearing impairment;
- visual impairment;
- emotional or behavioural disturbance (severe);
- general learning disability (mild, moderate and severe);
- specific learning disability, and or;
- specific speech and language disorder.
Please note that the language used by the NCSE in its Guidelines* regarding the level of support needs (mild, moderate, severe, disorder, etc.) required by pupils stems from taking a medical model view of disability. This does not reflect AsIAm’s views on autistic people’s support needs, which reflect a rights-based and identity-first approach in line with the Social Model of Disability – (see our Language Guideline document)
The school must complete an application form for access to SNA support in collaboration with the student’s parents/guardians and return this to the NCSE. The form should be accompanied by one or more professional reports from an OT, SLT, psychologist or other relevant professional in support of the application.
Once received, the application is then processed by the school’s allocated SENO, who will decide based on the report and resources available if access to SNA support can be granted for this student.
How will an SNA support my child?
An SNA will support the child’s individual primary care needs, whether that is assisting with feeding, toileting, withdrawal, supervision etc.
Secondary care needs may then arise which also require support. These include:
- preparing and tidying workspaces;
- assisting with cleaning of materials;
- assisting in the development of the student support plan or IEP;
- assisting access to therapy or psycho-educational programmes, and or;
- assisting the child in attending school events where such individual assistance cannot be provided by the teacher.
More specific support may be required in the instances of visual or hearing impairments and/or behavioural needs. This is further outlined in Circular 0030/2014 on the SNA Scheme from the Department of Education and Skills.