Special Education Assistant Career Info, Job Duties and Requirements

Special education assistants work with specially trained teachers to educate students with emotional and behavior disorders, intellectual disabilities, communication challenges or physical disabilities. Special education assistants provide support to teachers in addition to working with students who may require additional educational services.

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Special Education Assistant Career Information

A variety of methods are used in special education classrooms, so assistants in this field must be adaptable and able to pay attention to details and instructions provided by teachers. Most work with special needs children includes both one-on-one interaction and small group settings. In some cases, a teaching assistant may work with younger children like toddlers who have shown developmental disabilities and delays. With the supervision of a therapist or teacher, these assistants use games and exercise to aid the physical and behavioral development of special needs students.

Job Duties

Though the duties of a special education assistant vary depending on students' specific needs, their primary goal is generally to provide classroom support to teachers. This support includes work with students and other tasks like paperwork and lesson planning. These assistants also help by attending to any physical needs a student may have, like grooming or eating. Overseeing students to ensure that no harm or danger befalls them in the classroom and in other areas like hallways, cafeterias and playgrounds is another important job aspect.


Special education assistants must pass a background check prior to hiring. Some school districts also require prospective special education assistants to pass a drug screening. This position requires excellent communication and writing skills along with the patience to handle difficult and stressful situations. Experience working with children and remaining calm under pressure is helpful for this career. The ability to speak a second language like Spanish and knowledge of different cultural backgrounds is helpful for assistants working in urban areas.

Educational Requirements

Employers usually prefer to hire special education assistants who have some experience with children, either formal or experiential. Due to the specific needs of special education students, a special education assistant should have an associate's or bachelor's degree along with some understanding of physical disabilities, developmental disorders, learning disorders and other special needs. Job training involves understanding the rules and operations of the school along with receiving a thorough explanation of each student's special needs.

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