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Any advice for a fledgling Teaching Assistant for teenagers with special needs?

(10 Posts)
Rhubarb Wed 22-Aug-07 19:23:21

I'm due to start work for a secondary school in Sept working with children with special needs. Most of the problems are associated with Aspergers and Autism.

I've read books and stuff, but wondered if parents and/or TA's could give a little advice on what makes a good TA. What to look out for, what to avoid doing, what works, what doesn't.

I do have experience with special needs but not with these particular conditions.

Many thanks!

WanderingTrolley Wed 22-Aug-07 19:26:16

Can't help with advice but good luck!

WanderingTrolley Wed 22-Aug-07 19:27:21

That was as in 'good luck in your new job' not 'good luck you'll need it'



[I am a twunt]

dustystar Wed 22-Aug-07 19:29:55

ds is only 7 but has fulltime 1:1 so I thought I'd reply to your post anyway. I think that one of the best things about his TAs is that they are able to tell by his body language etc when he is getting edgy and head off a meltdown before it happens. They are good at calming him down and managing a tantrum too but prevention is much better for them and him.

Good luck with the job

Rhubarb Wed 22-Aug-07 20:36:59

Thank you. For the good luck wishes and replies!
What kind of body language should I be looking for?

dustystar Wed 22-Aug-07 21:01:55

TBH I would have thought it is different to a certain extent with each person but having said that ds gets sort of twitchy. He can't sit still and he gets loud or makes sudden load noises. Other people with AS etc maight get very quiet and withdrawn. The best thing to do is find out as much as you can about all the children you will be working with from the teacher and SENCO and then go from there.

flyingmum Wed 22-Aug-07 21:24:10

pre warning them about changing activity is a good thing. Pick up the verbal cues from the teacher and translate for them. Quite often they may be engrossed in what they are doing and may want to do it really well so when its 'pens down and listen' They won't do this then when its 'now we are going to move onto page 32' they still want to be doing what they were doing. Give five minute warning. Preempt behaviour. 'Now Mrs thing has said that we have around five minutes to do this exercise, what happens when she says that time is up?' hopefully the response is 'I stop what I'm doing and listen'. If it isn't - then be very specific.

They have good days and bad days. What has caused the bad day may not be clear to them or you and may be something incredibly minor but that they have on their mind so it blocks stuff. Sometimes you have to ride with it and if they are so anxious and twitchy and getting to be disruptive even after you have tried to calm them then I would take them to a quiet area rather than try to battle on.

Be firm but fair and always treat with respect (which I'm sure you will but my son has had some horrors of LSAs in the past). My aspie is a very good interpreter of character and can lead someone a real dance if he realises they don't have a clue or a treating him in the wrong way.
Don't be confrontational as this will lead to explosions. If you get anxious - they will too.
Don't do too much for them - by secondary schools one of the key skills is to build up indpendence so they should be getting their stuff out of their bags/pencil cases and writing their own homework in (unless they have significant literacy difficulties as well).

Last academic year I had a year 7 HFA in my class (i'm a teacher) and really his literacy skills were OK but what we did need his LSA for was just to remind him not to call out, make noises or inappropriate commentes. Aspies and HFAs are often prime targets for the less nice aspects to hone their bullying skills or taunting skills. Often these are done in an underhand way or are done to poke fun at the child to the amusment of others. A fundemental role for an LSA is to spot this, give signals and methods of coping to their pupil and also report back to the powers that be - as a teacher with 30+ in the class it is sometimes difficult to spot exactly what is going on.

Finally, (phew - sorry this is soooo long)the child might be asigned your support but not actually need you all of the time or be perfectly happy or competent at that subject. By observing others in the class don't be afraid to move and help others that actually might need more support but not be qualified for it. So the lad I've already described - he was able to access most of the lesson himself so I put a couple of the kids with the weakest literacy near him so his LSA helped them out too. It also doesn't point out the child as being so obviously different and helps them work independently.

The fact you are so keen to get it right shows that you will be brilliant at your job. Just think 'how would I want MY child to recieve this instruction or to be treated' If you follow that and are human and yourself and allow your own personality to come through you'll be fine!

Best of luck

Rhubarb Thu 23-Aug-07 16:11:48

Thanks for that, brilliant advice! I do have little briefings on my 6 pupils which I've read, but I've had little time to meet them. I've not met their teachers or SENCOs but the first day is an INSET day so I hope to find out who the relevant teachers are and what they expect from me throughout their lessons.

I think for the first week I'll just be getting to know the children.

I really am keen to get it right though!

evenhope Thu 23-Aug-07 16:25:32

Be prepared for the kids to hate you!

(I did this job 10 years ago and it was a real baptism of fire!)

Most of my "named" kids were OK, with a few exceptions, but some of the rest of the class were nasty bits of work, especially Y9 and Y10. Your school might be different but I did have a couple of classes where I ended up taking my named child out for 1 to 1 because the teacher (who didn't approve of LSAs) was using me as target practice to split up the several undesirable elements in the class

(Sorry if that wasn't what you wanted to hear )

Blandmum Thu 23-Aug-07 22:20:45

You'll be great!

Take a pencil case with lots of extra pens, pencils rubbers etc....I know this sounds like a tiny thing, but many kids with ASD have probelms organising etc, a little thing like being able to lend them a pen can help so much!

Get a laminated sheet an write on it the childs three IEP targets, and have it on the dest as a propt to them and to you, you can also use the sheet to write down the lesson aims, and you and the child can tick them off when they have been met....giving the kids small achievable 'bite size' targets can be key to keeping them on task.

As flyingmum pointed out so well, these kids can be a real target for other kids who may try to 'goad' them into a melt down (not nice but far too common). Have a chat with the classroom teacher to see if they think there are any individulas that you need to keep away.

Try to find out what the lessons will contain before you get into the lesson. With time you will be able to identify potential flash points and help to stop them from happeneing.

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