34 Special Needs Teaching Assistant Interview Questions and Answers

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 31 August 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you're interviewing for a special needs teaching assistant role, you may want to consider taking some time to prepare for a meeting with the recruiter. The interviewer may decide to ask you questions about various aspects of your life, personality and experience. Reviewing example questions and knowing how to provide good answers to them can help you stand out among other candidates and get the job. In this article, we list common special needs teaching assistant interview questions and answers and explain why interviewers may ask them to help you prepare for your interview.

Related: How To Become a Special Education Teacher

Common special needs teaching assistant interview questions and answers

Reviewing common special needs teaching assistant interview questions and sample answers is one of the most effective ways to prepare for a job interview. Consider these four questions when preparing and formulating your responses:

1. Describe the last time you felt accomplished at work.

Asking this question allows interviewers to see if working in the field makes you excited and if you're approaching your duties ambitiously. In your answer, be sure to describe your accomplishment and tell the interviewer how it helped you strengthen your essential SEN teaching assistant skills. This question is also a great opportunity to express that you're truly passionate about what you're doing.

Example: 'Last year, I worked with children with hearing difficulties. The teachers' and teaching assistants' role was to encourage them to strengthen their communication skills by training their speech, but even though we paid close attention to speech exercises and provided a comfortable environment, some students felt uncomfortable speaking up. The teachers were particularly worried about one student who hasn't said a word in a few months because of their shyness. Once, I was able to work with that student one-on-one during speech therapy. I understood their limitations and decided to tell them a story about my mother.

She's also lost her hearing but managed to start speaking again, even though at first she was embarrassed about other people not understanding her. At the same time, I didn't enforce anything on the student and just told them that I'm here for them whenever they're ready to speak, no matter if it happens that same day or a year from then. The student was shocked that someone treated them with so much patience. The next week, when they saw me, they managed to say good morning out loud to me. I felt really proud and accomplished that day.'

2. How do you want to make a difference in your student's lives?

Empathetic and passionate professionals who truly want to make a difference in their student's lives can often find the challenges of this role more enjoyable. If an interviewer asks you this question, they want to make sure you're aware of the responsibility of working with children. In your answer, be sure to show confidence, self-awareness and openness that can help you overcome any challenge in this profession.

Example: 'I want to show them how to set goals and achieve them. Through my own actions, I make sure to demonstrate that determination, consistency, and persistence can help them succeed. I understand that some students in the programme may be shy or need a confidence boost, which is why I try to highlight their individual qualities and strengths to help them build their self-worth for the future.

I always stay positive and respect their opinion, making them comfortable enough to share their dreams and goals. I know that how I treat them and what I teach them can make their future easier, which is why seeing how they open up, learn and improve their problem-solving and adaptation skills is a fantastic feeling.

3. Do you have previous experience in this role, and what duties have you performed?

Candidates who have previous experience in a similar role typically need less time to adapt to a new work environment because they know what to expect. It's also easier for them to perform basic duties in the role. In your answer, be sure to list some example duties you performed. It's a great opportunity to highlight your teamwork skills and the ability to work independently.

Example: 'I previously had a job where I performed duties as a special needs teaching assistant. My day-to-day responsibilities at the previous company included assisting the lead teacher with preparing learning materials and during class, observing and helping students with various activities and compiling reports on their progress. At the beginning of each semester, my duty was to plan how we'd transform the classroom to make it more welcoming and comfortable for our students. When working on this transformation, I also took into consideration our students' individual limitations to plan their desks and designated learning areas.'

Related: 14 Essential Teacher Skills

4. What are the essential qualities of a good SEN teaching assistant?

Interviewers may ask you this question to see if you've carefully read the job description and can refer to it. Your answer also allows them to test your general knowledge about working as an SEN teaching assistant and test if your expectations for the role are realistic. Consider listing at least a few qualities that someone needs to succeed in this role and providing reasoning.

Example: 'A good SEN teaching assistant is someone who's always patient, understanding and attentive. It's important to have good computer and numerical skills, know how to work within a team and independently. Although teaching assistants may come from many backgrounds, it's important that they know basic teaching methods and are sensitive to the children's needs. Professionals working in this role typically work under the instruction of a lead teacher, so it's also important for them to be respectful of that at all times.'

General questions for a special needs teaching assistant

Although a recruiter may primarily want to know about your skills relevant to the position you're interviewing for, they may also choose to ask you more general questions. Here are example questions you can expect to hear:

  • Why have you decided to pursue a career as an SEN teaching assistant?

  • How did you learn about the opening at our company?

  • Out of all the other candidates, why should we hire you?

  • What's your biggest strength?

  • If you could eliminate one of your weaknesses, what would it be and why?

  • Why do you want to leave your current job?

  • Where do you see yourself in five years?

  • Do you easily adapt to new work environments?

  • Do you consider yourself an empathetic and understanding person?

  • How do you maintain a healthy work-life balance?

Related: How To Become a Teaching Assistant (With Skills and FAQs)

Questions about background and experience

It's important for a potential employer to understand your motivation by learning about your background and experience. Here are some questions that you can consider preparing for:

  • Do you have experience preparing learning materials on your own?

  • Do you prefer working with one student at a time or with a group of students?

  • How would you assess your computer skills?

  • How has your education prepared you for this role?

  • Have you ever had a chance to organise outside-the-classroom learning activities?

  • Describe a situation when you encouraged a student to display confidence in class.

  • Have you ever been in a situation when you had to perform some of the lead teacher's duties?

  • What's your strategy for dealing with emotional attachment in this role?

  • Have you ever been in a conflict with one of your student's parents?

  • What part of working as an SEN teaching assistant has been the most challenging for you so far?

Related: How To Write a Teaching Assistant Cover Letter (With Examples)

In-depth special needs teaching assistant questions

Asking in-depth questions allows the recruiter to see if you'd be able to perform important SEN teaching assistant duties. Here's a list of questions about the role they may ask you:

  • How would you welcome a new student to the class?

  • How important is your students' emotional wellbeing to you?

  • What special equipment have you used before?

  • How do you ensure the safety of your class?

  • What teaching methods work best for students with ADHD?

  • How do you gain a child's attention?

  • What professional certifications do you have?

  • How do you create a stimulating environment for children between six and nine years old?

  • What are some common examples of speech difficulties in children?

  • What's your opinion on inclusion?

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