Special Needs Assistants' mission in Swedish schools: How is it going and according to whom?

Teacher and pubil.

Special Needs Assistants' mission in Swedish schools: How is it going and according to whom? These are questions asked in this research project. We want to contribute knowledge about opportunities and barriers of the work of Special Needs Assistants in order to develop and strengthen the role. 

Special Needs Assistants are frequently utilized in Swedish schools, particularly to provide assistance for students in need of special support. However, international research highlights concerns regarding instances where Special Needs Assistants are tasked with teaching these students. Despite the common use of assistants in Swedish schools, research on their role is limited and lacks central perspectives on their school engagement.

Studying the Special Needs Assistants mission from different perspectives

In this project, we aim to contribute knowledge about Special Needs Assistants’ mission in primary compulsory schools, including school-age educare centers, with respect to students in need of special support. We will investigate their mission from four distinct perspectives: 1) Special Needs Assistants themselves, 2) the school's special education organization, including principals, special educators, and special needs teachers, 3) guardians of students who regularly interact with Special Needs Assistants, and 4) the students themselves. We will conduct a qualitative interview study with a focus on these actors, which will be analysed using constructivist grounded theory. Thus, it will be possible to compare the perspectives and generate specific knowledge on Special Needs Assistants' professional relationships and work situations, as well as the understanding of students and their guardians in their interactions with the assistants. This knowledge is crucial to comprehending Special Needs Assistants as a special education measure in a nuanced manner.