Assistant support for Pupils with Intellectual Disabilities

Una O'Connor Bones, Christine McKeever, Felicity Hasson

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned reportpeer-review

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This study aimed to explore the professional relationships between assistants working with pupils with ID in the special school sector in Northern Ireland. To date, there has been little research in Northern Ireland on the role of the Classroom Assistant (CA) to support pupils with intellectual disabilities. In educational terms, even less is known about the support given to these pupils by other assistants (for example, assistants in physiotherapy and occupational therapy) or on their working relationship with the CA. Adopting a qualitative approach, 48 assistants from eight special schools took part in a series of focus group interviews over a four-month period. Findings highlighted the diversity of the assistant role in special schools and an increasing requirement for individualised support for pupil behaviour and medical needs. Positive relationships with teachers were reported, although ambiguity around professional identity was a recurrent observation. In particular, lack of clarity around assistant roles and responsibilities, limited opportunities for collaborative practice and the status of the assistant position within the school contributed to this perception. The findings provide new insight to the relationships between assistants working in special schools and confirm the need for a larger research programme to fully explore the deployment of this workforce in Northern Ireland.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherUnknown Publisher
Number of pages15
Publication statusIn preparation - 1 Sept 2017


  • assistant
  • workforce
  • intellectual disability
  • special school
  • professional identity


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