The Evolving Role of the Special Needs Assistant: Towards a New Synergy


  • Liam Lawlor
  • Áine Cregan


SNA, Special Needs Assistant, Role, Responsibilities, Learning Support, Education Provision


The post of Special Needs Assistant (SNA) is now an integral part of the Irish educational system. This paper presents findings from an investigation into the evolving role of the Special Needs Assistant from an ‘extra pair of hands’ to a learning support person in the classroom. This role has evolved without clear definition, adequate preparation, specific training or appropriate induction. Its future success is very dependent on a generous enthusiastic and professional response from all parties - SNAs, teachers, principals, Boards of Management and the Department of Education and Science. From the context of developments abroad, through an examination of developments in Ireland, findings from this research offer suggestions for the successful integration of the Special Needs Assistant for the mutual benefit of all parties involved.


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How to Cite

Lawlor, L., & Cregan, Áine. (2021). The Evolving Role of the Special Needs Assistant: Towards a New Synergy. REACH: Journal of Inclusive Education in Ireland, 16(2), 82–93. Retrieved from