Q: What's a typical workday like for you?
A: I ride the school bus with the students; prepare them for the morning with checking in and setting goals for the day. Then we do academics, lunch, recess, recreational therapy and daily groups with their mental health practitioner. My classroom has a teacher, a mental health practitioner and eight students in fifth and sixth grades. Their diagnoses include Asperger syndrome, emotionally or behaviorally disturbed, developmentally or cognitively delayed, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. In the morning I help some lower-functioning kids with their spelling, but basically, I'm there for behavior management, assisting the teacher, correcting student assignments and monitoring their behavior.
Q: How does your role fit into the bigger health care picture?
A: Most of our students are medicated and I have to make sure they take their medication daily and notify parents if they're running out of medication, because it really helps them get through their day.
Q: Who do you interact with during the course of the day?
A: I interact with the teacher, mental health practitioner, students, social worker, the program team leader, parents, police, case workers, probation officers, outside social workers and bus drivers.
Q: Why did you become a teaching assistant with special needs children?
A: I don't have children, but I've always had a love for children. It watched my brother grow up in a program similar to this. My degree is in criminal justice and child psychology and it's a passion of mine to keep them out of the criminal justice system.
Q: What do you like about your work?
A: I love the students, learning about them and being able to see them progress, watching them grow and mature to become productive citizens using the skills we're teaching them.