The purpose of this award is to equip the learner with the knowledge, skill and competence in the practices and principles underpinning the role of a Special Needs Assistant.

The SNA module is typically held over 14 sessions. Learners must complete a minimum of 30 hours work placement in a pre-school, primary, post-primary or special school where children with special educational needs are educated. This will enable the learner to gain invaluable experience through which they will be able to apply theory to the actual practice of working as a student SNA in an educational setting.

This SNA module is like no other of its kind. It is a bespoke course that goes beyond the remit of the QQI learning outcomes to ensure that our learners graduate as exceptional SNA professionals. The course is delivered by highly-experienced and qualified professionals in the field of special education. Mairéad McHale and Clare Dooley are qualified teachers. Both have worked in special schools and in autism classes.

Mairéad McHale is an educator in the further and higher education sectors delivering special education, disability and sociology courses. She also facilitates special education CPD training to teachers and SNAs in schools. Mairéad holds a post-graduate diploma in Special & Inclusive Education and a Masters in Education. She worked for over 12 years in both a special school and in autism classes (within a mainstream school). Mairéad will facilitate the morning course.

Clare Dooley is a mainstream junior infant teacher. She has over 15 years of experience teaching in mainstream classes, autism classes (within a mainstream school) and in a special school. She holds many special education CPD qualifications and has completed post-graduate studies in special education. She has a specific interest in well-being and emotional regulation and will complete a masters in this area next year. Clare will facilitate the evening course.

Course outline

  • The context and history of SNA provision in Ireland.
  • Inclusion & equal opportunities.
  • Legislation pertaining to special education and disability.
  • The role of the SNA in accordance with the Dept. of Education and Skills.
  • The qualities and skills necessary to work as an effective SNA.
  • The importance of maintaining professional relationships with all members of the multidisciplinary team.
  • The role of SNA in facilitating activities of daily living (self-care skills).
  • Communication and language development.
  • Evidence-based strategies and approaches used in special education.
  • Positive approaches to behaviours that challenge.
  • Categories of special educational needs – Autism, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, General Learning Disabilities, Specific Learning Difficulties etc.

Additional Learning

  • Academic writing and referencing skills.
  • Critical thinking and reflection skills.
  • Obtaining work as an SNA (CV/Interview skills workshop).

 Additional Workshops (optional)   

Learners will have the opportunity to enhance their learning and CVs by enrolling on any of the following professional development optional workshops. These workshops, with the exception of PECS and TEACCH, are typically 3-6 hours in duration and delivered over one Saturday or 1-2 evenings:

  • Lámh Sign Language (Module 1: The Alphabet plus 100 signs)
  • Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) * 2-day course
  • TEACCH Autism Program *2-day course
  • Understanding Autism
  • Understanding Dyslexia
  • PRAISE Behaviour Support
  • First-Aid course tailored toward working in a school environment
  • Manual Handling
  • Multi-Sensory Maths Training

Venue: Leixlip Youth & Community Centre

Course 1: Morning Course facilitated by Mairéad McHale 

09 January – 23 April 2020 – Thursday mornings 09:45-12:45

Course 2: Evening Course facilitated by Clare Dooley

09 January – 23 April 2020 – Thursday evenings 18:45-21:45

One class per week held on Thursdays.

No classes: 20Feb (Spring mid-term) or 9th & 16th April (Easter Holidays).

There will also be one Saturday session – Date TBA

Please be advised that we will be holding an Introduction to Special Needs Assisting evening workshop late November or early December – Date TBA.  See:Introduction to SNA Workshop


This course is assessed through two written assignments. There is a significant amount of work involved and the assignments must be typed/word processed and comply with referencing protocols. However, you will receive a lot of help and support during the course on the academic writing and referencing requirements. To enrol on this course, learners must have access to a PC or laptop with internet access. They must be confident in their ability to complete two word processed assignments for a QQI level 5 qualification.

Course Fee:

Standard fee: €430

Early Bird Offer: €395 * Balance must be paid in full on/before 29 NOV 2019

Easy Payment Scheme (interest-free) * Terms & Conditions apply

Standard course fee may be paid for over 3 interest-free payments

Deposit                        €100 on booking to secure place (non-refundable)

Second payment       €165 due on/before 29 NOV 2019

Final payment           €165 due on/before 27 MAR 2020

Please note, we are unable to accept funding from organisations that process course payment after course completion date. 

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Further Course Requirements

To fulfil the course requirements, please note the following:

Learners must have the ability and skills required to complete a QQI level 5 course.
Learners must submit two typed/word processed assignments.
Assignments must be submitted by email on the final day of the course.
Learners must have an email account and access to the internet.
Course notes will be uploaded to an online file sharing platform. Hard copy printed notes will not be provided.
Student SNAs must complete 30 hours of work placement in a school setting where children with special educational needs are being educated.
Student SNAs must source the work placement hours themselves.
Student SNAs will be Garda vetted through Synergy & The Open College.
Garda vetting will also be completed by the school where student SNAs will carry out their work placement.
Deposits are non-refundable and terms & conditions apply to the ‘Easy Payment’ scheme. See following link  Interest Free Payments T&Cs

Progression to Further Studies

This course leads to a level 5 award on the National Framework of Qualifications and, on successful completion, participants will be qualified to work as SNAs in primary, post-primary and special school settings.

Students who successfully complete this programme may use this level 5 credit towards completing a QQI Major awards such as:

Level 5 Major award 5M2009 Early Childhood Care & Education

Level 6 Major award 6M2007 Early Childhood Care & Education

Level 5 Major award 5M2786 Community Care

Level 5 Major award 5M4468 Community Health Services

Further study options will be explored, including progression to University level 7 and level 8 part-time and full-time programmes.


 This SNA level 5 programme is in partnership with The Open College.

Programme is the latest CAS award validated by QQI and The Open College

If you have any queries, please email info@synergylifelonglearning.ie

* Each course is subject to a minimum enrolment of twelve learners.

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