Some 40 Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) from primary schools throughout Donegal have completed a five-day Summer Course in Letterkenny. The course was organised and facilitated by the Health Promotion Service, HSE West. Guest speakers from the National Education Psychology Service (NEPS), Donegal Sports Partnership, Physical and Sensory Disability Service and the Learning Disability Service provided inputs during the week.
A number of topics were covered during the Summer Course, including Child Protection; Managing Behaviour and Conflict; Inclusive Games and Physical Activity; Delayed Coordination Disorder; Developing Self-Confidence and Emotional Literacy. The SNAs explored their role and tasks, and ways to enhance the educational opportunities for children in their care.
The highlight of the week was a presentation from a young third level student in Letterkenny Institute of Technology who spoke about her experience of having an SNA assigned to her during her primary and secondary schooling. She emphasised the importance of SNAs and teachers in enabling young people with Special Needs to grow in independence.
One of the SNAs who attended the Course said after the presentation: It was very valuable to hear first-hand about the child’s need for independence and respect.
While the HSE’s Health Promotion Service has been running courses for teachers for many years, this was the first course of its kind for SNAs. The course was rated highly by the participants, and the SNAs requested further training in a range of topics.
One participant said: This was a really worthwhile course. It helped me realise how important the role of the SNA is in supporting and advocating for children with Special Needs.
The SNAs welcomed the opportunity to meet with others and share their experiences, as well as learning from the various speakers. The participants highlighted the need for ongoing training opportunities for SNAs, and a schedule of workshops is planned for the new school year.
A Special Needs Assistant said: The course was way beyond my expectations and I hope to use many of the ideas especially on positive behaviour when I return to school in September.