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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 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.

Helpful Resources

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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