Special Education Teacher Assistant Job Description
Special education teacher assistants provide direct support to both special education teachers and students in inclusive classrooms. This role balances direct student assistance with everyday tasks, such as eating and using the bathroom, and educational tasks, such as developing curriculum and adapting lesson plans and classroom materials to suit students’ specific needs.
Special education teacher assistants also ensure that their classrooms and lessons follow curriculum developed by the school district or state and maintain student records in collaboration with the special education teacher. They may also teach special education classrooms if the teacher is absent and lead classroom activities to build social and behavioral skills.
Special Education Teacher Assistant Duties and Responsibilities
The special education teacher assistant’s duties can vary from day to day, but most share several core responsibilities:
Develop Curriculum and Lesson Plans
One of the most important duties of a special education teacher assistant is collaborating with teachers to develop lesson plans that meet educational standards and the specific needs of students within the classroom. In this aspect of the role, the special education teacher assistant examines classroom materials and considers students in the classroom, providing input and advice to the teacher during lesson plan development to ensure student success.
Provide One-on-One Student Assistance
Special education teacher assistants also provide direct support to students, which can include helping with socialization and everyday tasks such as eating, using the bathroom, or utilizing classroom materials. This part of the job can involve significant physical activity, such as a helping a student with limited mobility use the restroom or assisting a student who has trouble eating on their own.
Adapt Classroom Materials and Activities
Special education teacher assistants work with students, parents, and teachers to adapt classroom materials and activities based on a student’s particular needs. They may develop worksheets that help the student better grasp lesson material, incorporate visual aids to aid in a student’s understanding of a lesson, or develop activities aimed at helping students successfully learn.
Monitor Student Progress and Performance
Student observation and reporting is another major part of the special education teacher assistant’s role. They may observe students from day to day and take notes on their successes and challenges within the classroom. In addition, special education teacher assistants prepare and submit reports on student outcomes, providing them to the district or to parents to demonstrate the student’s progress.
Maintain Classroom Organization and Safety
Special education teacher assistants maintain clean, safe, and effective classrooms by monitoring organization and safety. This can include cleaning up the classroom at the end of the day, resolving conflicts between students, and setting and enforcing standards for classroom behavior. The special education teacher assistant also prepares reports on any classroom incidents.
Lead Classroom Activities
From day to day, the special education teacher assistant may lead a variety of classroom activities aimed at building students’ social, behavioral, and mental health. These activities can include games and socialization opportunities for students with disabilities such as autism, or adapted physical education activities for students with physical disabilities. The special education teacher assistant may also teach lessons if the teacher is absent.
Special Education Teacher Assistant Skills and Qualifications
Special education teacher assistants provide day-to-day support in inclusive and special education classrooms. School districts tend to hire candidates with a high school diploma, some college credits, and the following skills:
- Student assessment – special education teacher assistants provide support by identifying specific student needs, so they should have some familiarity with evaluating students and determining what they need to succeed
- Physical assistance – many special education teacher assistants directly support students with physical tasks such as eating or using the bathroom, so they should have some experience providing disability support services
- Curriculum development – special education teacher assistants work directly with teachers to develop and adapt curriculum materials to specific student needs, so they should have some skill with lesson development
- Classroom management – many of the duties of a special education teacher assistant involve managing the classroom to ensure that students’ needs are addressed and to resolve behavioral or social issues
- Organization skills – in this role, special education teacher assistants maintain classroom cleanliness and organization while managing day-to-day schedules, so they should be highly organized
- Communication skills – special education teacher assistants should also be strong written and verbal communicators, since they interact with students, teachers, and parents
Special Education Teacher Assistant Education and Training
Special education teacher assistants need at least a high school diploma. Although a college degree is not necessary for this role, special education teacher assistants do need to complete some college courses, typically equivalent to two years of full-time instruction. In many cases, school districts prefer to hire candidates with an associate’s degree in education. Classroom experience is also helpful, as is experience working with individuals with mental or physical disabilities.
Special Education Teacher Assistant Salary and Outlook
Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide specific information for special education teacher assistants, it has gathered salary data for teacher assistants as a whole. According to the BLS, teacher assistants earn a median annual salary of $26,260. The highest-paid teacher assistants earn more than $39,780 per year, while the lowest-paid 10 percent earn less than $18,460. The BLS also notes that roughly one-third of teacher assistants work part time.
The BLS expects employment for teacher assistants to grow 8 percent by 2026, which is about as fast as average.
If you’d like to learn more about working as a special education teacher assistant, we found a number of helpful resources on the web:
National Association of Special Education Teachers – NASET is a professional and advocacy organization aimed at providing special education teachers and assistants with the resources they need to help students learn
The Paraprofessional’s Essential Guide to Inclusive Education – geared toward special education teacher assistants, this book provides guidance and advice on helping students with special needs succeed in the classroom and beyond
The Paraprofessional’s Handbook for Effective Support in Inclusive Classrooms – read this book to learn how to successfully build and manage inclusive classrooms for students with learning disabilities and behavioral and social issues
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