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Dyspraxia and Being an Education Assistant

I trained to be an Education Assistant 3 years ago. I wanted to help children who were having difficulties at school for whatever reason.Sometimes that extra time spent with a child can make the difference between success or failure. Children with learning disabilities are not stupid. They just have extra challenges that children with neuro-typical brains don’t have. Sometimes they just need to be shown a different way or more times than the rest of the class. Some things they will never be able to do quite as well as their peers  but with extra help they can improve. Other things they will achieve with extra help. Either way they need patience and understanding to achieve the best they can possibly be.

I decided to become an Education Assistant after helping voluntarily at my daughters school for 2 years. I spent 2 days a week in my daughters year 6/7 class. The following year when she moved up to the next class , the classroom teacher asked me if I would continue to help her even though she was no longer teaching my daughter. I helped one day a week for another year. Both the classroom teacher and the Headmistress of the school encouraged me to train as an Education Assistant and they gave me a very good reference. I would help the children with maths problems they didn’t understand and reading out spelling words. I also helped the teacher with marking tests. I did some photocopying  and recorded and filed test results. I got on well with the children and they would often chat to me. My dyspraxia was not really a problem with children of this age. I didn’t need to do any cutting out or drawing because children of this age can do that for themselves. I must have done a good job as I am sure they wouldn’t have encouraged me to get formal qualifications if I was useless. unfortunately most Education Assistant jobs are not with this age group.

I applied and was accepted into TAFE the following year.I had no problems with the academic work. I did have a few issues with binding books and creating puppets. They were only mild difficulties until I came to the work placement part of the course. I had to work between 2 year 1 classes. Helping the children with reading maths etc was no problem. I was a little slow on the photocopier but I did manage to do it. The problem was when you are an EA in a lower primary or pre-primary class you often have to prepare activities for the teacher. This often involves drawing or cutting. On this occasion it involved cutting. I had to cut out 60 koalas for the children to do an activity. I was concentrating so hard my head was hurting. I took longer then I should and sadly the class Education Assistant had to tidy them up when I had finished. It was very disheartening.

I was very lucky in my placement however. Unusually both the teachers and the EA understood dyspraxia. They were very good and didn’t get angry with me. The main teacher was very good . Although she was always aware of my limitations she would push me to try things I didn’t think I could do. One of these things was painting windows. When she told me we were going to paint a rhino and a leopard on the classroom windows in each room. I would do the rhino in one room and the leopard in the other. We did use some cheats and what the EA showed me to do was very clever. She traced a picture of a rhino and a leopard onto the clear film for an overhead projector. We blue tacked paper to the outside of the class window to block the light. We collected the overhead projector  from the science lab and projected the image onto the window. Then standing on a chair I had to draw around the outline with a marker pen. I wasnt entirely comfortable standing on the chair, but it was only a child size chair so it wasnt to bad. I then had to paint the rhino and leopard. It was a far from perfect job but the kids knew what it was. I was so happy I took photos to show my kids because for me that was an achievement.03062011(001)

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Sadly most Education assistant jobs are in these lower grades were they can be utilised to help the teacher with activities as well. It is a pity because I am good at maths and was fine at helping the children who were having difficulties. I could offer a child with special needs an understanding that someone with a neuro -typical brain can’t. I have been that child in fact when I go to TAFE I am still that child. Like anything in life we can all be sympathetic to someones situation. But you only truly understand how something feels if you have lived it your self. If I could get a job in an older classroom I would be fine but as most jobs continue to be with younger children were I need to be able to cut etc, I have no choice but to look for a new career.03062011(001)

Sharon Beaumont

I am a single mother of 4 who has lived with dyspraxia for several decades. My hope is that by sharing my experiences I can help to raise awareness of dyspraxia. I trained as an Education Assistant but found some areas of this to be a difficult career if you have dyspraxia. Currently I am an Information Technology Student and am trying to teach my self to speak French. I love travel, writing and anything French.

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