Course Details

Delivered online with webinars, this full time one-week intensive course gives you gives you the opportunity to qualify and work as a special needs assistant.

Start Date
23rd January 2023
QQI Level 5
Portobello Institute
Course Duration
1 week


Are you interested in becoming a Special Needs Assistant? This course is suited to anyone who has an interest in Special Needs Education, whether to pursue it as a career or use the knowledge for personal or family reasons. Portobello Institute’s QQI Level 5 Minor Award Special Needs Assisting is a qualification that will allow you to work as a special needs assistant in schools, hospitals and care homes. During course you will acquire not only knowledge but empathy and understanding crucial to your future role as support to persons needing assistance in their learning. This is a one-week intensive course delivered online with webinars and is suited to anyone who has an interest in Special Needs Education, whether to pursue it as a career or use the knowledge for personal or family reasons. You will also be required to complete 20 hours of work experience enabling you to get practical experience to compliment your studies. These factors, together with the one to one tutorial support, offer you a course that is accessible, affordable and achievable.

Special offer applies when booking Level 5 & 6 together!

Why should I study this course?

The field of Special Needs Education is one of enormous variety and ever-changing needs. Portobello Institute wish to respond to the true needs within the sector by offering a course that will equip our students not only with knowledge but with empathy and understanding crucial to their future role as support to persons needing assistance in their learning. Our research in the field has found that Special Needs Assistants require practical skills and knowledge in a wide range of behaviours and abilities. Thus, we try to encapsulate the lifelong experience of persons with Special Needs within our courses, in Level 5 and in greater detail at Level 6.

Portobello Institute’s QQI level 5 Minor Award in Special Needs Assisting gives you the opportunity to learn from a range of experts all of whom are passionate about the field of special needs education. They bring their insight, depth of experience and passion for teaching to this course. During this course, you will learn to support and understand the process by which a child with learning, physical or behavioural needs learns. This qualification will allow you to work alongside a child with special needs in a school as well as care settings.

Who will recognise my qualification?

Upon completing this course, you will hold a QQI Level 5 Minor Award in Special Needs Assisting enabling you to work as an SNA. This course is an essential introduction to the role of an SNA and theories in special needs education that will prepare you for QQI Level 6 Minor award in special needs assisting should you wish to further your studies.


What will I study during this Special Needs Assistant – Level 5 – Intensive – Starts January ’23 course?

During the Level 5 course, you will learn about development and learning in children with special needs and about the role of an SNA. You will learn about child development and behaviour theories and how a range of activities can promote physical, social, emotional and intellectual development in children with learning, physical and behavioural disabilities. You will develop the capacity to work and communicate effectively with parents, families, colleagues and other professionals to safeguard, support and promote children’s learning, development and well-being.

During this programme you will cover the following topics:

The Role of the Special Needs Assistant

Equal Opportunities Child Development (Overview)

Theories of Learning and Behaviour

Physical and Intellectual Disabilities

Communications and Language Disabilities

Work Experience

Who will I learn from?

Personal Academic Tutor

Each student is assigned a personal academic tutor to support you throughout your learning journey. They are available to offer you telephone and email support at any time. You can arrange to meet them for further one to one guidance at a time convenient to you.

Many of our past graduates have found it is the opportunity to ask a simple question, seek direction and submit a draft of their assessment that supported them most to successful completion. Emailing your tutor at any stage during your programme to ask a query or submit a draft of your assessment supports you to achieve your personal best throughout your studies with Portobello.

This level of one to one support is a particular benefit to choosing Portobello as your Institute of choice to complete your studies.

Fran Trehy

Position: Special Needs Assisting lecturer

 ‘The heartfelt hero, using their talents to help students discover their own. Dedicating their time and energy each day to the students in their care, and doing it all while meeting the individual needs of many.’

About Fran

As I am a Special Needs Assistant for the past 16 years, I feel I can give the student a true insight into the classroom environment.  I went back to education myself in later life and after completing my Arts and Humanity degree focusing on Family Studies, the urge to stay as an SNA was so strong, so when Portobello came up to teach the Level 5 and Level 6 Special Needs assisting courses, it was a dream come true In so many ways. I have had a very eventful life to date, travelling the world, working in very varied work environments for example Dublin Airport, Hospitals, and an array of other careers, one of which is being a mother to three teenager/young adults,  I had a child with special needs myself who passed away very early in life so Special needs is very close to my heart.  I have a passion for the career and the children in my care.  I hope anyone that I am lucky enough to teach will benefit from that passion. 

Since taking the position of Tutor with Portobello I have encountered so many people with the same ethos as myself not only with colleagues but with students alike, to be Special Needs Assistant takes a very special person, to change children’s lives for the better is so rewarding. I could not have chosen a better college to teach in and I am truly grateful to assist as many people as possible to progress in this challenging, rewarding career.

Fran’s Teaching Philosophy

 I am a very relaxed Educator, I like to make students feel comfortable and to be in an environment where no question is a silly question, I like to exude passion for special needs children and for all children in education.  I would love my students to leave the course with all the knowledge necessary to become the best they can be. I also want students to have the urge and longing to progress and further their education after completing the course and to make sure they have the confidence to pursue that. I believe that teachers should create a positive and safe atmosphere for all their students, and be the best teacher they can be by using different teaching strategies, being prepared for any situation, and always doing what’s best for the students.


  • BA Hons, Arts and Humanity focusing on family studies
  • Special Needs Assisting Level5 and Level 6
  • Dyslexia, Dyspraxia awareness certificates
  • PECS and ABA Certificates 


How will I learn?

Delivery Mode

Portobello Institute has re-designed this course for delivery as an e-learning and Webinar course. We have extensive experience delivering e-learning courses and have the resources that are specifically designed for delivering courses to an e-learning audience. Your course will run at a specific time each week when you will log-on and your tutor will deliver the content over a 2 hour period with a break of 10minutes half-way through. You can ask a question at any stage and hear the questions and responses of other students attending this course. Your tutor is available up to 20 minutes before class so you may log-on early and seek support if there are any areas of the content that you need additional support with. Alternatively, our full-time programme manager is available to support you throughout your learning journey.

Course materials are structured to be accessed on a week by week basis and are available to download from our e-learning platform as you progress through the course. Assignments are all designed for completion at home and once completed, you will upload these to the elearning platform. Feedback and results are posted here for you to access too.

You will have the opportunity to engage with your fellow course colleagues as if you were in class together – all from the comfort and safety of your chosen environment. Webinars are available to download at a later stage should you miss a class making this a very flexible and convenient mode of learning.

Other delivery modes available

Course Structure

This is a one-week intensive course with Webinars delivered Monday – Friday. Interactive webinar sessions are held every morning, 10am – 12.30pm.

What is a Webinar?

A webinar, in the context of online learning, is a lecturer delivering a presentation or class online to a group of students. We use specifically designed e-learning software so you can participate in the class just as if you were present in the same room. You can ask a question to the lecturer at any stage during the class. The software is designed with “break-out rooms” where you can discuss a topic or complete a group exercise with a smaller group from your class. You will need a computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone that has internet connection, an audio facility so you can hear and speak during the class and a camera so your lecturer and fellow class participants can see you. The webinar is a secure online environment and only those permitted entry by the lecturer can gain access to the “classroom”. Webinars are recorded during each session and should you miss a session, you can catch up with the recorded session at a later date. You will only be able to access webinars of the group you are assigned to.

Course Schedule

This course runs from 23rd January ’23 to 27th January ’23 with interactive webinar sessions held every morning from 10am – 12.30pm.

Real Life Learning Opportunities

Work Placement


During this course you will spend 20 hours on a work placement in a special needs assisting setting. During the placement you will have the opportunity to put into practice the exercises and skills you will have learned during the programme. You will have the opportunity by using these skills to stimulate, develop and guide the children under your direction to develop to their full potential. We aim to ensure that you will have the opportunity to gain experience in a setting that is aligned with your career ambitions.

The practical work experience element of this programme may be completed once Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted.

How will I be assessed?

A variety of assessment methods are used to support students with different learning styles. These vary from written reports to practical case studies to examinations. We encourage you to reflect on your knowledge gain with a number of assignments designed to explore your learning journey. All of these assessment methods are seeking to support you to combine theory with scenario-based learning and how to practically implement these methods into your everyday practice.

Career prospects

What is the role of a Special Needs Assistant?

Special needs assistants play an important role in supporting those with learning, physical or behavioural difficulties. The role of an SNA in the classroom involves assisting the teacher to support students with special educational needs who may also have significant care needs. Through education, knowledge and understanding an SNA can ensure that a child with special needs experiences a positive learning experience developing their confidence and independence.

Related Courses

Speak to an expert

Choosing a course that will lead you to your career of choice is a significant decision. Understanding the delivery modes, supports available, career opportunities and further study options are all key considerations when making your choice. Our course adviser team are experts in the courses Portobello offers, the employment prospects and possible progression routes to other programmes – they will guide you through the detail and support you with any queries you may have.

It is important you make the right choice for you and choose the Institute and course that will best suit your needs.

Your Consultant

How do I apply?

Entry to this course is by direct application to the college.


Without a Leaving Certificate

There are no previous academic or experience requirements for this course.

Fees & Payment Options


Course Price

Per academic year.


Full Payment

Total amount payable.