Importance of Educational Assistants

Offer the right amount of support!
It has been my pleasure to work with many Educational Assistants (EA), or Teaching Assistants (TA). These are the educators who are assigned to work with specific children with special needs. Often, they are experts in specific children, as they get to observe first hand how the children react to the environment with sensory issues. They must understand the child's response to the demands of the tasks.  Educational Assistants become very knowledgeable about the triggers that might set a child off, and are pro-active in structuring the child's day and environment to avoid these triggers, or develop plans to reduce the child's sensitivity. They know that behavior is communication!

A good EA is optimistic, intuitive, and willing to adapt quickly! She or he is patient and forgiving. An EA has to work within the classroom, but knows when a child in their care may need a break from the class, too. Integration is a fine balance. All children have the right to learn, and often the noise of the children with special needs can interfere with the learning of the rest of the class; alternatively, the activities and noise of the larger group can trigger distress in a child sensitive to movement or noise while he or she is working.

I believe in inclusion. Inclusion must be meaningful, and it must work for all. Parallel tasks, modified tasks, and alternative tasks are possibilities that allow children with a variety of needs to work in their age appropriate settings. Support is often needed to facilitate this, and good programming is essential. EAs work with a Special Education Resource Teacher and the classroom teacher to make sure all the pieces are in place. So, communication is so important. An EA is often the most knowledgeable person about the next steps needed, and he/she is willing to adapt tasks on the fly, to make them work.

Many times, an Educational Assistant has given me feedback on specific children that I have missed in the teaching of the whole class, and in working with small groups. On my wish list of a perfect classroom, an Educational Assistant is at the top of the list!!

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