In this section, we will outline the role of the special needs assistants (SNA’s) in our classrooms, how the child’s need for SNA support is determined and how one accesses SNA support for their autistic child.
What is an SNA?
Special needs assistants are allocated to schools to work with children who have specific care needs. They provide non-teaching care support. Although providing non-teaching support, Special Needs Assistants make an enormous contribution in supporting those with autistic children through their time in education. They play a vital role in the educational/personal development of a child who requires their support. It can be difficult to sum up the role of an SNA because so many go above and beyond the call of duty to assist autistic children which they are assigned to.
The Department of Education and Skills defines the role of an SNA as supporting students with additional needs and assisting the student’s teacher to do the same.
Their duties and responsibilities involve:
More detailed description of the role and duties of an SNA are further outlined in Circular 0030/2014 on the SNA Scheme from the Department of Education and Skills.
How can my child qualify for 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:
The student must also have a diagnosis of disability under one or more of the following categories:
Please note that the language used by the NCSE in its Guidelines* regarding the level of support needs (mild, moderate, severe 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)
How is an application for an SNA determined?
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 National Council for Special Education. 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.
For more information on the application process please see National Council for Special Education.