One to One Aides in the Classroom
An Informative Guide for Parents
Many of the parents we represent view a one to one instructional aide as an essential component of their child’s appropriate educational program. An aide can often make the difference between a year of positive academic growth or the alternative. Ironically as more parents are seeking aides for their children, many districts are scaling back their programs and laying-off personnel. If you are considering requesting an aide for your child or are currently using an aide in the classroom, here are a few guidelines to keep in mind.
What Is an Aide?
The definition and role of a one to one aide is best summarized as:
A specially trained paraprofessional which assists in “meeting the pupil’s needs, that result from the pupil’s disability, to enable the pupil to be involved in and progress in the general curriculum.”
To understand the role of a one to one aide, you must first determine what is the goal of having an aide. Ideally, the aide should fit into the needs of your child’s IEP and fulfill specific criteria that cannot be met in a traditional classroom setting. In addition, the aide should assist in your child’s development and transition plan.
Benefits to an Aide
Your child’s one to one aide’s primary duty is to assist in your child’s development by providing:
- Instructional support with academic programs
- Language support if your child requires assistance with ASL or is multi-lingual
- Behavioral support, both in terms of assisting your child in adjusting to classroom settings and requirements as well as providing important details that you and the IEP may not be aware of
- Physical support for children with disabilities
- Medical support if the aide has medical training to handle seizures
While there are many specific advantages to having a one to one aide assist your child and ensuring the IEP is properly implemented, it is important to remember they are only one element of your child’s development and education. One to one aides should not replace the duty of your child’s teacher or take on tasks that your child is capable of completing on their own. The aide should be there to provide assistance.
Securing a Quality Instructional Aide for Your Child – IEP Strategies
Every IEP begins with a discussion of the child’s present levels of educational performance. The team members present their findings and observations of the child’s strengths and challenges. Parents should remember that each member of the team, including the parents themselves, are equal participants in the process. If you have specific concerns regarding your child that have not been raised by the other team members, be sure to raise them during the present levels discussion and make sure that they are noted in the IEP.
Define Why Your Child Needs an Aide
Before you raise the topic with your IEP team, you first need to define the need for a one to one aide. Outline what the benefits are to having a one to one aide assist your child, what areas in your child’s development that they can assist with, what qualifications they will need to have, and what role they will serve as part of the IEP. You may find that an aide is not the best route, and there may be another modification to the IEP that can fulfill the same goals as a one to one aide. Speaking to doctors and child psychologists can also help you get a clearer picture of how an aide can benefit your child’s life.
A frequently used rule of thumb on securing services in the IEP context is “the goals drive the services.” Simply stated, parents who believe that their child requires the assistance of a paraprofessional must be vigilant during the goal writing process to make sure that the child’s challenges are adequately addressed with appropriate goals for overcoming those challenges. For instance, let’s assume that the child has difficulty with transitions and self-care issues. It is absolutely vital that these important issues are covered in the goals for the year. The goals advanced by the team will ultimately set the stage for the discussion of the services necessary to help the child meet the goals.
Schedule an IEP Meeting
Once you have determined why your child needs a one to one aide, schedule a meeting with your IEP and inform them of your request beforehand. This allows them time to evaluate what options are available, pull a list of potential candidates, and determine if another alternative might meet your goals.
During the IEP meeting, be open to suggestions and solutions offered by the other team members. They may agree that an aide is necessary for your child’s continued development, but that different qualifications may be needed. Or they may have other resources that the IEP can draw on instead of an aide. Remember, they are evaluating the IEP along with you and might have important insight into how to best implement a one to one aide.
Assigning a one to one aide is a group decision and you may not be able to move forward without the agreement of your IEP team. If they do agree to your request, they will begin reviewing qualified applicants and determining when they should be brought in to assist your child. You must also be open to the possibility that your team disagrees with you and says no. However, they cannot do so on the basis of “that’s not how we handle things” or a lack of resources. Instead, they must a clear, logical reason as to why a one to one aide would not benefit your child. If you disagree with the decision, you may request an appeal.
Appealing an IEP Decision
When there is a dispute that you cannot resolve in an IEP meeting, you may request mediation with a third-party, such as a special needs lawyer, school official, or another group to discuss the matter. You may be able to come to an amicable solution, however, this may or may not include adding a one to one aide to your child’s IEP. If mediation does not work, you may request Due Process, but this can be a long and difficult process. You may not wish to move forward without discussing the matter with an attorney.
A Word on Aide Qualifications
Adding Qualifications to the IEP
Getting the IEP team to agree that a classroom instructional aide is appropriate for the child can sometimes only be half of the battle. If the child has specific needs, make sure that the required skills/qualifications of the aide are included in the IEP. For example, a child who uses American Sign Language to augment spoken language should have an aide trained in sign. Many districts resist adding aide qualifications to the IEP by arguing that they cannot guarantee aide qualifications due to labor issues and shortages of personnel. A good compromise here might be to have the district promise to train the assigned aide in the required skill within a reasonable period of time.
Monitoring the Aid’s Qualifications
The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is a federal statute that covers all states, school districts, and some private programs that accept Title 1 federal grant money. The statute’s stated intent is to raise the accountability of schools nationwide by holding teachers accountable by student testing to ensure proficiency from year to year. Schools that don’t “make the grade” run the risk that the state may take action to remove personnel, including administration, and possibly assume control of its operations. The general consensus among the special needs community is that the statute, while noble in purpose, may have an alienating effect on special needs children who often perform lower on standardized testing. While the statute is clearly controversial, it can provide very useful tools for parents going through the special education process.
If your child receives any services from a paraprofessional, at your request, the school is required to provide you with information about the paraprofessional’s qualifications.  Section 1111(h)(6).
New paraprofessionals who assist in Title 1 programs must have completed two years of college or pass a proficiency test. The test will assess their ability to support teachers in reading, writing and math instruction. Paraprofessionals already employed have until 2006 to meet these requirements.  Section 1119(c-d).
You can access the statute in its entirety at the US Department of Education website
In summary, an aide may be a vital component in your child’s education. The goals that are written will ultimately determine if an aide is needed to help the child progress. If you know that you will be requesting an aide for your child, give some consideration to the specific qualifications that would make the aide an effective member of the child’s program. I recommend that parents bring in supporting materials, research, etc. to support their position. Most IEP teams are open to considering your proposal, especially if you have authoritative material supporting your request.
These materials were prepared by Mark Woodsmall, founder of the Woodsmall Law Group and the parent of a child with Autism. For more information on securing a One to One Aide or shadow for your child, please contact us at (626) 440-0028.