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Advice please: new TA overwhelmed/unsure of role 3 months in

Discussion in 'Teaching assistants' started by joannarh95, Jan 19, 2018.

  1. joannarh95

    joannarh95 New commenter


    I graduated from Uni last year, and have been a Teaching Assistant working in Nursery since the end of October. The job I am in was advertised as a general TA role, not 1:1 (I sadly no longer have the advert, but I wouldn't have applied for it had it been advertised 1:1). I wasn't given a job description, however I have kept the copy that was on the recruitment site where I found the job details. It's a generic TA job description.

    When I started the job, I was told that I would be given responsibility for carrying out Speech and Language Therapy interventions with some children (I have a Linguistics degree), and that I would be supported by a Speech and Language Therapist (as I have been). I also made it quite clear in the interview that while I am really interested in Speech Therapy, I have never had any training and this was one of the questions I asked about at interview. I am now finding however that I'm really out of my depth with the SLT. They are aware that I need training and so are sending me on two courses in a couple of weeks and in March. This is fine, however I am currently worried that if they were to do an observation, I would completely fail it at the moment.

    The other thing that I'm feeling incredibly stressed out about is the fact that I have been given responsibility for a pupil with suspected Autism. I am however very unsure whether I am 1:1 or a just a Keyworker. Around a couple of months ago when the child was assessed by SEN services the class teacher made it clear that I wasn't a 1:1 and that the child has no-one assigned to him in that capacity. However now I am being expected to follow his speech and SEN support plans that the SENCo has given (not discussed) with me, and have been described to the PPA supply teacher (by the normal teacher) as this child's 1:1. So I am getting really mixed messages. I purposely didn't apply for 1:1 as I didn't want the responsibility, and now it seems I have assumed this role, despite no formal clarification.

    I don't know how to bring this up with my class teacher without sounding like I am reluctant to work in this capacity, and I wanted to know how normal it is for TA positions to change slightly from what was applied for? Would it be reasonable to explain my frustration that I have never been explicitly told that I am this child's 1:1? Has anyone else had a similar situation? How should I bring it up?

    Are there any inexperienced TA's currently doing SLT in early years that would have any advice? I feel guilty because I have a Linguistics degree so understand all the terminology on the support plans but putting it into practice is difficult (we use toys however I am expected to plan which resources to use each week and report back to the therapist). I have a child with attention targets who I am struggling just to get to sit down in the sessions, although sometimes he is fine - it varies from day to day. I am struggling to break through to the other child with suspected ASD.

    Any advice is appreciated!

    Thank you.
  2. sunshineneeded

    sunshineneeded Star commenter

    I don't have any specific advice re SLT in early years, but wanted to reassure you that it's very, very normal for TAs to find themselves working in a different role to that advertised! Schools change constantly - new children arrive mid-year who clearly need a lot of assessment and support and a school's only option is often to shift the support staff team around and assign someone to work with the child temporarily - this can often become permanent. Most TAs also have a very generic job description.
    You sound to be doing a great job so far and the school clearly have faith in you. The courses you are soon to go on should help. It wouldn't be strange at all to ask your class teacher for a time you can have a meeting with her (if you can offer to do this after school, that would be helpful) to clarify exactly what they want from your role - it simply shows that you want to do the right thing. If you are to be working with the suspected ASD child then talk to your SENCO. Ask about other TAs who work with ASD children - can you shadow one of them for a morning? They will have masses of skills and ideas to support you. There are also on-line ASD courses which are very informative - google it.
    Use the SALT therapist when you see her - I know they don't come in that often, so keep a list of questions you need to ask when you do see them - it's easy to forget. Or you could obtain an email address for her from the SENCO and ask any important questions that way.
    Good luck and try not to worry - you really do sound to be doing OK!
    Hedgehog_ likes this.
  3. joannarh95

    joannarh95 New commenter

    Hi there,

    Thank you so much for your help - I really appreciate it :) I am feeling very overwhelmed and nearly cried in work today as I was really struggling to get the ASD child to go to the cloakroom to put his coat on - he started crying and becoming very distressed, struggling on the floor, and then the class teacher came out and told me that she really needed my help outside in the cloakroom and that I would have to direct him and get him to move. I felt, and still feel, totally useless.

    I've been meaning to pick it up with the class teacher since it became an issue a couple of weeks ago, but have either not found the right moment or have, in all honesty, been too anxious to address it with her. I have suspected social anxiety issues, which is a separate problem and which I won't go in to here - this is compounding my stress, because I feel too anxious to ask for help. My lack of communication / requests for help mean that the people I work with probably (and rightly) assume all is fine as I haven't said otherwise. I don't know how to broach the subject informally so I'm going to talk to the teacher after school tomorrow when it's just me and her, and be completely honest with how I'm feeling about the situation. Unsure whether to tell her that social anxiety is the reason for not asking for help or just leave it.

    I understand that the school is within their rights to give me this child to work with without the job advert specifying in the first place, I just feel absolutely overwhelmed. I didn't apply for 1:1 SEN roles for this reason, and I naively assumed that it would say on the job description whether the role would be 1:1 or otherwise (as some posts did).

    It's such as shame because I love the class and the children, and I had a fab time last term helping with all of the kids and doing Speech Therapy. This has now made me feel incredibly stressed and I'm really not enjoying it much any more. Sorry if I sound really negative, I'm aware of how much I sound like a naive self-centred twentysomething, but I'm finding it hard.
  4. sunshineneeded

    sunshineneeded Star commenter

    I think that's a very good idea to plan to talk to the teacher tomorrow. Be honest with how stressful you are finding the situation and how you feel you don't have the skills or experience to manage the child. I don't think I'd mention the social anxiety at this point, just ask for help with strategies for supporting him. Ask how she would suggest you should have handled the cloakroom scenario. Be positive - say how much you enjoy whole class support and speech therapy. Explain that you are concerned that you are not meeting the child's needs in the best way because of your lack of experience - is there another TA with ASD skills who could work alongside you for a day to share their knowledge? Good luck and let us know what happens.

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