Even If You Could Get a 1:1 Aide, Here’s Why You May Not Want One.

Crowded Class

I hear it less now than I used to, but parents still routinely ask whether I can help their child get a 1:1 aide (meaning a paraprofessional who is ostensibly hired only to support a single child). My first response is that it’s always been very difficult, but due to budget cuts, it’s more difficult now than ever.  My next response is that aides are not usually the answer to helping kids stay in a mainstream or gifted class.

I recently heard a prominent Miami-Dade school official say at an IEP meeting for a disabled who qualified to be in the gifted program but needs support – “Aides are for students who can barely keep their heads above water, not for a child like this.”  But I think that response was disingenuous because most school districts don’t offer aides for kids who “can barely keep their heads above water” either – their solution for those kids (despite the federal legal requirement to keep kids with mainstream kids as much as possible) is to place them in “self-contained” classrooms of purely disabled kids. Who can blame them really. Assigning a 1:1 aide to a child means spending that person’s salary on only one child.  That’s an enormous amount of money in these tight-budget times.  But my point is this: 1:1 aides in and of themselves don’t generally help kids stay in mainstream classrooms.  As a matter of Florida law (and the laws of many other states), only certified teachers can teach kids, not aides who generally have paltry qualifications and need not even have mastery of the English language. So, officially the aide can only keep the child on-task and following directions. I’ve observed a few aides who without formal training are simply natural educators and actually help kids to “access their education.”  The majority of aides in my experience have no training in education (e.g., former bus drivers) and no training in behavior management – so they don’t even know how to effectively keep a child on-task, let alone keeping his or her impulses or emotions under control. Most of the aides I’ve observed are useless, quite honestly, to help the kids their assigned to; sometimes the aide causes the child to act-out against her aggravating the child’s behavior problems.  As a child gets older he or she becomes very self-conscious, even resentful, of having an aide sit next to them.  The aides often become the teacher’s helper with administrative tasks, like passing out worksheets, and the child makes little progress accessing his or her education.  Ultimately, the child can’t survive in the mainstream classroom and is moved to a more restrictive special education environment. So, rather than fighting for an aide, I suggest getting your child the proper accommodations for his or her disability.  One effective accommodation, is a peer “buddy” who is strong in the areas your child is weak will sit next to him or her, model good behavior, and depending upon his or her personality, will actually help your child follow directions and stay on-task.

UPDATE September 20, 2009 – My position on this issue has changed and deepened slightly in the past few months to a year.  Safety is a key and necessary justification for a 1:1 aide.  Certainly there are those with physical or medical disabilities who absolutely could not join in a mainstream public school classroom without an aide.  And some students with behavior problems (I’m thinking right now of high-functioning students on the Autism Spectrum, but there are others) can rise to the occasion, even flourish,  in a  mainstream classroom with the extra support of an aide.  Those are often children who would pose a threat to themselves or others (usually unintentionally) without an aide.  True miracles to see.

 

 

30 Replies to “Even If You Could Get a 1:1 Aide, Here’s Why You May Not Want One.”

  1. Sue Massey

    I found your site on google blog search and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. Just added your RSS feed to my feed reader. Look forward to reading more from you.

    – Sue.

    Reply
  2. puzzlemom

    Totally relate to 1:1 aide debate for autistic child. Who needs to spend so much emotional and financial energies fighting a school system to end of up with an unqualified, possibly detrimental influence for your child?!? But just as frustrating is that despite our recent best efforts to provide accommodations for our son so he can continue to acccess some inclusion (fine arts), the school district knows that the state of Florida refers to the case study of disrptive behavior against inclusion. Now my child has a file a mile wide of “data” supporting their position. What a losing battle…

    Reply
  3. K Jackson

    The para 1:1 arrangement is beneficial to many students with particular needs which call for physical support as well as emotional direction. The standard preference is for the student to be mainstreamed, however there is also occasionally a need for additional support by qualified personnel to ultimately achieve academic success. This measure is beneficial to the student and teachers alike. Today, most districts require the 1:1 to be college educated and fully trained for the position.

    Reply
  4. Yolanda

    Paraprofessionals are now required to have 2 years of college and/or pass a paraprofessional qualifications exam. While I have had my own experience with unqualified paraprofessional (e.g., bus driver), I have found most to be very good and a necessary part of my child’s education. I can understand discouraging parents about trying to get one in this difficult budgetary climate, but I don’t necessarily agree that they don’t help children stay mainstreamed.

    Reply
  5. Susan white

    Don’t have one unless he is physically unable to do things. Why? First, it is an embarrassment to the child. Should he be any more different? Next, if he struggling academically, he needs remediation. Giving a child an answer isn’t helping th problem. He should be in a pull out program. Aides are untrained. End of story. They are not teachers but that is what they become. If he still can’t cut it, look to a special day class. He will be happier and so will you in the long run. Take yourself out of the equation and put him in the most suitable place.

    Reply
    • AllisonHertogAllisonHertog Post author

      Thanks so much for your comment, Susan. It really helps other parents to hear your experiences. 🙂

      Allison Hertog

      Reply
    • Jeanette

      Not ALL aides are untrained (at least in our experience) End of story. Unless you are speaking from first hand experience, you should really think twice about your comment. It is quite disturbing and I’m not sure what it is based on. Its too general. I can speak from first hand experience. My son was placed in A.F. pre-school program (no 1:1) and it was amazing and exactly what he needed at ages 3 and 4. He was INAPPROPRIATELY placed in A.F. kindergarten class and regressed in all areas. His teacher lacked both experience and common sense. He is now full inclusion/main streamed with a 1:1 who actually assists other students and the classroom teacher as well – as needed. She steps in as needed as a support. She does not “give” him the answers. He is reading at grade level. He is at grade level academically but does need a 1:1 for safety concerns and emotional/academic support at times. She is amazing. She is educated and has a great background/experience. Take yourself out of an equation you do not belong in.

      Reply
      • AllisonHertogAllisonHertog Post author

        Hi Jeanette:

        Thanks for your comment. I’m sorry if I offended you. Obviously, this is my opinion based on first-hand experience that many of my clients have had. I’m always happy to hear about positive experiences. Thanks for sharing.

        Reply
        • Jeanette

          Hello Allison Hertog, I am not sure my comment posted correctly. This was actually directed to/at the comment left by “Susan White”. I find it highly offensive. My son was inappropriately placed in kindergarten and was being hit or getting hurt daily. He is very smart and needs to be continuously challenged. He was not getting the education he needed or deserved. I had to fight the school district hard and it was worth every minute and all the sleepless nights. He is now full inclusion with a 1:1 and for US it has been the best thing.

          Thank you.

          Reply
      • AllisonHertogAllisonHertog Post author

        Dear Susan,

        Thanks for your input, but why do you think I don’t like ASD kids? That’s not true, of course. But I’m curious as to what makes you say that. Your opinion is important.

        Best,

        Allison

        Reply
  6. Calli Hendrickson

    I am paraprofessional never was a bus driver. I worked hard many years 1:1, with a child since 6th grade now in 12th . All of a sudden no longer 1:1. However I have traveled to different schools with child.
    I am insulted by your comments of not being educated . I f I was not competent I would not be employed and have been trained to continue with this student and his needs. I spent more time with this child than the teacher who had no time to work with child. She had others to tend to even though the class was all self contained MC2. I was assigned to child/ case closed. No I nothing to do with IEP or parent conferences. This child was just there. However I did whatever I could to keep the child motivated to the best of my ability and the child’s and happy for both of us and in the end we were both contend and in a learning environment where other children wanted to join in. Therefore not a “teacher” I feel I was best suited and an asset to the education system. I plan on retiring when student ages out coincidently the same year together. Again not a 1:1, and the system is doing me a favor and keeping me . It makes me wonder .. Did I mention the student is going back to behavior since I am not working 1:1?

    Reply
    • Jeanette

      Thank you for your comment. We have a 1:1 for our son who is high functioning, diagnosed with autism. She is amazing. My son deserves the right to access general ed curriculum just like every other child. Just because he may need some emotional support or re-directing does not mean we throw him in a classroom he will not grow and expand in.

      Do you know why the aide is not involved in conferences and IEP? Must be a legal issue? because that part does not make sense to me.

      thank you!

      Reply
      • AllisonHertogAllisonHertog Post author

        Jeanette:

        I can’t speak to why the aide isn’t invited to your meetings and conferences. Generally, an aide is not one of the required legal participants in an IEP meeting and they may not want to take her out of the classroom if she doesn’t need to be. You can request that she be present during the meetings for at least part of the time if you believe your son would benefit from having her contribute to the IEP.

        Best,

        Allison Hertog

        Reply
        • Anonymous

          The 1:1 is often not at the meeting because they often do not have the clearance to have access to special education files/METs/IEPs. They are usually classified employees, not certified, and so are not supposed to have access to confidential information.

          Reply
        • Michelle

          The 1:1 is often not at the meeting because they often do not have the clearance to have access to special education files/METs/IEPs. They are usually classified employees, not certified, and so are not supposed to have access to confidential information.

          Reply
      • Jessica Masterson

        How did you get the school to agree to the paraprofessional in the classroom? I am fighting for one now for my daughter with autism.

        Reply
        • AllisonHertogAllisonHertog Post author

          Hi Jessica,

          It’s difficult to get an aide approved in some states more than others. The most common/easiest way to get one is to help a child who has legitimate safety concerns and needs the support or supervision. The second most common way in my experience is to help a child who can meet or exceed the academic standards in a general education class but because of her disability (usually Autism) can’t “access her education.”

          Let me know if you need some help.

          Best,

          Allison Hertog

          Reply
  7. Jeanette

    Yes, I completely agree with this and I am glad your position has changed. : “And some students with behavior problems (I’m thinking right now of high-functioning students on the Autism Spectrum, but there are others) can rise to the occasion, even flourish, in a mainstream classroom with the extra support of an aide. “

    Reply
    • Mommy

      Hello my son has adhd he is my only child i am currently pregnant he is excited. I dont feel comfortable having him diagnosed with any medicines he is 6 years old in grade K he actually repeated GradeK already but in a new school new setting much larger classroom of 22 students he came from a school that only had 4 children in the classroom he is currently in the process of being evaluated on jan26 2017. Mind you i have requested the evaluation in sep. I requested for a 1:1 indivisoul for my child and the school declined it my son is being isolated and not getting what he needs to learn he cant tell me the days of the week or the months i dont want my child to fall behind or be behind my child tells me he is isolated when ever the teacher can’t handle him and when i come in the class he is always isolated academicaly he can do the work because most of it he already knows but only can complete with a 1:1 the school does not want to give him a 1:1 what should i do

      Reply
  8. Sue

    A child in our family is in a special needs class in a public school. He currently has a 1 on 1 but is being denied that for next year. He has a disorder which involves speech, congnetive, and dietary needs. He sometimes gets weak because of blood sugar and needs to be watched in case he would fall etc. We are in NJ. Can we hire a person to be with him at school? He’s very young ans we are concerned.

    Reply
    • AllisonHertogAllisonHertog Post author

      Dear Sue:

      It sounds like you should challenge the denial of the aide at public expense for next year. You may need an advocate in NJ to pull together all his needs to make a persuasive for the aide. You can find a national listing of advocates organized by state at the Copaa.org website.

      Often school districts don’t allow parents to pay for their own aides due to liability issues – both educational and as to personal injury.

      I hope this helps.

      Best Regards,

      Allison Hertog

      Reply
  9. Natasha

    My child has been cleared of Autism by a neurologists, pediatrician and 3 speech and language therapists/pathologists yet the public school he attends will only put him in an ASD classroom. All the children in the classroom have moderate to severe autism. My son will not respond well to their behavior I know this first hand due to a child with moderate autism being introduced in his class. He does have a speech delay and a learning delay. After “extensive” testing by the school they not only labeled my son Autistic but also placed him in this classroom with no other options. Do I have any rights to fight? I could care less about whatever they want to label my son as but I care whole heartedly about the treatment/schooling he gets. I am so frustrated I feel like my only option is private school? But I am afraid he wont be able to join a standard classroom.

    Reply
  10. Christian Dorn

    I agree that 1:1 aides are not always the answer, but yes, sometimes can help, even if it is taking the workload off the teacher so they have time to modify and accommodate. I’m glad you’ve evolved on this. I hope you also get past the idea that a peer buddy is an appropriate accommodation. This is asking an unpaid, untrained child to do the job of a teacher. Again, there are situations where it works, but no IEP should depend on it.

    Reply
  11. terri

    As a 1:1 aide I find what you said very insulting. A lot of us work very hard to keep the child we are assigned to on task, and do assist in helping them learn many different skills. It’s a learning process but you learn how to help them cope with feelings and to not act out. Also we keep their behavior under control. Of course I’m not saying we are teachers by any means but we do teach the children a lot. Don’t automatically assume aides are useless and don’t know how to work with children, specifically ones with a lot of needs, or with behavioral problems. Thank you

    Reply
    • AllisonHertogAllisonHertog Post author

      Dear Terri,

      I apologize. I don’t mean to insult anyone. I wrote this post a while ago and to be honest maybe I should re-visit it. At the time I was just responding to the sentiment that an aide is the answer to many of the problems their children have, which it is not.

      Reply
  12. Cristina

    This is a very ignorant view. There are plenty of extremely intelligent children who need an aide in order to participate in the classroom and have no business in a self contained classroom. My son is in kindergarten, he reads at end of third grade level is advanced for math and tests reveal he had the linguistic comprehension of a 21-year-old but he has ADHD Inattention and level 1 autism and low muscle tone. He has an aide and is one of the schools brightest students. His Aide is skilled and gives him loving guidance and redirection. She helps my son interact with his peers in a way that is meaningful way. He is learning social skills from being with her and others in the classroom that will benefit him for years to come. Both one-on-one aides and students with special needs are deserving of dignity in the school community and this article strips dignity for both. Regardless of the budget these students must be educated and not treated as scape goats during fiscal hardship. Suggesting people with disabilities are responsible for fiscal stress is discrimination. It is the law to provide students with disabilities the necessary accommodations to fully access a meaningful education. This article is ignorant and even dangerous as it spreads ignorance to people who may not know better and is not in alignment with Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

    Reply
  13. anonymous

    Wow. I have been hired as a 1:1 aid for this next school year. I have a bachelor’s degree and am working toward a master’s degree in special education. In my state, educational assistants, (aids) must have at least two years of college, or a sufficient score on the Praxis paraprofessional test. We are not the knuckle-dragging barbarians this made us out to be.

    Reply
  14. Carrie

    My child needs 1:1 for emotional support to help w anxiety disorder that triggers his seizures along with redirection n repeat of lesson because of lack of good working memory! With that being said I work in the school and have fought for 2 years just to get my son tested! I’m so tired of the public school system and the don’t care attitude towards special kids!

    Reply

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