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Working Effectively in Special Educational Needs

Zahra works as a support consultant for our Essex branch at Protocol Education. Before joining us she worked in a mainstream secondary school as a LSA, working predominantly with pupils with autism. 

Here Zahra describes some effective strategies for working with children with special education needs, and shows that sometimes the simplest of approaches can be the most helpful!

Break it down

It is highly likely that there will be at least one child in every class who will struggle to access the curriculum in the way that it is presented to the class as a whole. For this reason, it may be necessary to tweak or ‘differentiate’ the work to make it easier for certain pupils to access. This could be as simple as enlarging worksheets for pupils with Visual impairment or photocopying resources onto coloured paper for dyslexic pupils.

For pupils with Autism, essays or longer pieces of work can be a bit daunting. It may be useful to break it down into smaller manageable chunks.  For example writing a story about what you did at the weekend could be broken down into smaller questions:

  • What happened in the morning/ afternoon/ evening?
  • Who were you with?
  • How did you feel?



Classrooms are a haven for noise, harsh lighting and extreme temperature- a nightmare for pupils with sensory difficulties! Sometimes it may be necessary to withdraw pupils from the classroom and go to a quieter space in the school which will facilitate concentration and most likely good behaviour!


Challenging Behaviour

If you are working with children with special needs you may need to deal with challenging behaviour. Always be confident and calm with your behaviour management and be true to your word!

Following a challenging episode of behaviour always try to leave the child alone to calm down.  Bombarding them with questions and information will only exacerbate the situation. Always allow a cooling off period. 


Social Support

Working with pupils with SEN not only means you will be providing academic support – you will also need to encourage development of social communication skills. Well established SEN units and schools will have provision for Life Skills lessons; giving pupils an opportunity to practice communicating with each other and to focus on friendship building. They may also include development of practical skills like gardening and cooking.

Playing games in small groups which involve developing their social and communication skills can be a great tool – For example label all the pieces of JENGA with different questions

  • What makes you feel scared?
  • What is your favourite film?
  • Show me your ‘Angry’ face

This will encourage peer interaction without pupils feeling to pressured!


Found this useful? We would love to hear what you find works when you work with children with special educational needs. Email Megan at

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Tags: Zahra, Chelmsford, Essex, SEN, teaching-assistant, strategies, LSA

Category: Australian Teachers

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