A behavioral assistant is an individual who works with school-aged children and teenagers who have demonstrated behavioral or social skills problems. The precise role of a behavioral assistant in a school will depend on the school's policies and the individual needs of each student who is receiving care. In some cases, the assistant will also be expected to serve as a teaching assistant. Other variables include whether the assistant will be working with students in a segregated program for students with special needs or will be working with students in regular classrooms.
Some children, due to intellectual disabilities, mental health issues, or social immaturity, may need additional assistance at school in behaving properly and interacting with classmates and teachers. Many schools employ these persons to assist these children in developing appropriate behaviors and social skills. The assistant may report to a special education teacher, school behavioral specialist, or other school administrator depending on the structure of the educational system in which he or she works.
If a child is identified as having behavioral issues, educational professionals, including teachers, school psychologists, or social workers, may work with the child and his parents to develop a plan for improving his behavior. This may include a system of time-outs or specific penalties for bad behaviors, while good behavior may be rewarded with special privileges. The behavioral assistant may assume primary responsibility for observing the child's behaviors and providing awards or enforcing discipline, depending on whether the child complies with his behavior plan. In some schools, a behavioral assistant may also act as a teacher's aide and may provide supervised instruction to children in regular school subjects or help to tutor children who need additional help with their school work.
The qualifications to become a behavioral assistant will vary by school as well as legal jurisdiction. In some cases, someone who assumes the role of this type of assistant may be required to complete a certification course before working in a school and may have to complete continuing education classes in order to renew his or her certification. He or she will typically be mandated to hold a high school diploma, and some jurisdictions may require the assistant to have completed some college, while others may want the assistant to hold a degree or have significant experience in working with children. In addition to educational credentials, a behavioral assistant will typically have to pass a background check prior to being allowed contact with students.