Throughout my Minneapolis Public School career, I have worked with Special Education Assistants (SEA). SEAs help students with disabilities at school with schoolwork, exercise, and some personal care “appointments.” This is the last year I can receive an SEA at school by state law, so I want to give new or future SEAs for high school students some tips on how to be successful.
I want to start off by saying: Students should respect your personality, but you should not do some things as an SEA.
An SEA should help the student do his or her work. SEAs shouldn’t do it for them but help them through it. If the student wants to turn in an incomplete assignment, let him or her do so. During a science lab, an assistant should be engaged with helping the student participate. The SEA should always be looking for unique ways to help accommodate the lab/class for him/her. Also, an assistant should be flexible in case the student has accommodations or just wants a break.
An SEA should focus on his/her student so the regular ed teacher can handle the other students. That means, an SEA should not go off and do something when they are “on the clock” as the student may need help or medical attention at any time.
For some of us (including me), anyone who uses a loud voice can cause us to startle so SEAs should always use a calm voice. No SEA should move another person’s belongings without asking them first. An assistant should let his/her student be like a regular ed student. So, if the student wants to hang out with friends during lunch or needs to do something for athletics, the SEA should help him or her do that. Finally, an assistant should help a student set-up assistive devices, get dressed/undressed in colder weather or for gym class, and help with eating.
All assistants are advised to look over their student’s Individual Education Plan, or IEP, before they start working with their student/s. An IEP describes what services and accommodations a student needs to get depending on their disability.
Written by: Michael L. Sack