Deirdre O’Connor

Special Needs Assisting

Position: Special Needs Assisting Lecturer

“Teaching with Portobello has given me the opportunity to do something that I love, I believe passionately in the value of education regardless of your age and constantly challenge myself to learn new things. I find the students in Portobello are focussed, determined and resilient and my job is to help them recognise that in themselves so they can fulfil the potential that already exists within them.

Working with people generally can be challenging and people with disabilities are no different to anyone else, the challenges may differ but the principles remain the same. The rewards when people reach milestones or experience a sense of achievement with your help are second to none and make it all worthwhile.”

About Deirdre:

I have been approximately twenty years working in the intellectual disability sector, ten years as a special needs assistant in primary and post primary schools. This has given me first hand experience of the role, the challenges and the rewards!

I have worked with people presenting with a wide variety of disabilities and special needs as well as behavioural difficulties across the area in residential and day services as well as mainstream schools.

My proudest moment in my career was when I performed with a group of adults with intellectual disability whom I was working with in day service in a show that I had also written, produced and directed. The performance was a huge success and everyone had an absolute ball on the night! 

Deirdre’s Teaching Philosophy

believe in an interactive approach to teaching, involving students as much as possible and encouraging them to question and think critically. I like to encourage my students to reflect on their own values and beliefs, challenging them to consider other systems/beliefs and to analyse how these may influence their practise.

I play the game of skittles in a local league every year and I enjoy playing darts occasionally. I enjoy the natural world and love to get out for walks especially in the Autumn, my favourite time of year.

The key attributes that I try to instil in my students include genuine empathy for people, recognition of the value of observation skills and the importance of inclusion as a mind-set rather than just an ‘approach’ to be implemented.

When facing difficult circumstances as we all do from time to time in life, I try to remind myself of the following advice:

‘When the path to your destination is blocked, carve a new one.’

 One of my favourite singers is Jack Lukeman and I remind myself of the lyric, ‘keep on dancing’ from one of his songs when times are tough so no matter what,  focus on the positive, look for the joy in the small things in life and keep on dancing!


  • Degree in Youth & Community
  • Train the Trainer
  • Higher Certificate in Special Needs Assisting
  • Level 9 in Meeting the Challenge of Challenging Behaviour

Deirdre O’Connor Deirdre O’Connor