Updated: Oct 1, 2021
Sometimes students need additional assistance in the classroom to receive a free and appropriate public school education and a teacher's aide or assistant (1:1 aide) is assigned. With proper training and a collaborative spirit, this person has the ability to create a safe, inviting environment for your child in the general education classroom. This article will explore the benefits of a 1:1 aide and what to do if you suspect your child’s 1:1 aide is not a good fit.
Benefits of a 1:1 Aide The role of the 1:1 aide is similar to a theatrical stage hand – they work behind the scenes in service to the actors and are responsible to make ready for the upcoming scenes. As such, she is one step ahead of her charges, alert for changes which may come about quickly. Her agility and in-the-moment problem solving makes her invaluable in this role. Similarly an ideal 1:1 aide understands the needs of her student, provides tools to help the child succeed, listens intentionally to the teachers, and provides space to the child to encourage independence as learning begins. On a day-to-day basis, though, the 1:1 aide is sometimes in the role of eyes and ears for the child - prompting him to attend, remember the book, pencil, calculator, etc, and sometimes providing positive reinforcement and rewards for behaviors conducive to the child's learning. While the goal is always independence, a child's individual needs may require the 1:1 aide to prompt him frequently in order for learning to take place. Through consistent communication the 1:1 aide works in a collaborative partnership with the general and special education teacher in the best interest of your child.
Building the Relationship
Sometimes a 1:1 and a child may have a clash of personalities when they are first put together. If a child is not motivated to learn, the 1:1 aide can come to be seen as a task master in a battle of wills with the student. While this is difficult, it is not always unexpected. Especially strong willed children may not immediately embrace a 1:1 aide who is doing her part to insure the child is meeting the grade level expectations. An adept 1:1 aide learns quickly how to both hold the bar high while still building and maintaining a positive relationship with your child. These relationships can develop into the glue that hold the child together during more challenging work or when a child is struggling socially or emotionally.
Pro-Tip: Consider sharing some photos of your child outside of school, doing
favorite things, with favorite family and friends to provide the 1:1 with a
deeper understanding of the various aspects of your child. Time permitting,
arrange for your child to have time to show the photos to the 1:1, with the goal of
giving the two common ground, and your child the sense that the 1:1 has a
picture of the whole child, not only the student.
If the relationship between your child and the 1:1 aide is lacking, it can be developed. One option is to have the 1:1 aide spend 2-10 minutes of fun time at the beginning of each day interacting with the child in a high interest area. The child begins to associate an activity they enjoy with being with the 1:1 aide and the 1:1 aide gets to see your child in a positive, non-academic light. The goal is for the relationship to grow so that the child understands he is respected and understood by the 1:1 aide and the 1:1 aide has positive memories to utilize while working with your child. A side benefit is this time can also offer social skills practice for your child and may potentially gain new areas of interests from the 1:1 aide, too!
When Things Don’t Click
Sometimes, however, a student and 1:1 aide's relationship does not move past the initial, difficult stages. If after trying to develop a working relationship with your child, the 1:1 aide cannot support your child's learning goals, you will need to approach your child's principal or special education administrator directly. Your ability to relay your concerns as they pertain to the IEP and clearly express your reasons for requesting a change will enable a productive conversation. While your child is always your first priority, keep in mind that maintaining a strong working relationship with the school team should be a close second. It is good practice to assume the 1:1 aide has your child's best interests at heart though repeated mistakes of the same nature may warrant a conversation with building administration. Remember that the school's point of view is valuable and though you may not necessarily agree, the view of the child that you have at home might be quite a bit different from how your child behaves in school. That said, two way communication in which every perspective is understood will move the problem closer to resolution.
Effective communication is especially valuable at this meeting, and includes mindful sharing of facts as well as attentive listening to the responses you receive. It is strongly encouraged to paraphrase what you heard to insure you have accurately understood what was said, and provide the speaker a chance to clarify, You may also find it helpful to write notes down. A 1:1 aide who is able to hear concerns and address them immediately is extremely valuable to your child's day-to-day success because they teach your child that everyone makes mistakes and can correct them. More importantly, your child has the benefit of an individual who is willing to insist on the best for them, even if it's not popular.
In closing, the role of the 1:1 aide is multi-faceted. In addition to supporting your child, they are also an integral member of the service team carrying out various pieces of your child's program and ensuring she is receiving the best possible education every day. When a problem occurs with the 1:1 aide, the parent's best course of action is to communicate the issue and look to move forward in a positive way. If the issues cannot be resolved, it may be time to consult with a parent advocate to ensure your child has the support she needs in the classroom. In so doing, you make clear the need for your child to accomplish the goals set in his IEP and have a positive school experience.
Thanks for reading! Have you ever resolved an issue related to a 1:1? If so, please leave comments below, your stories help others; in fact this article is a result of someone asking me to write about this situation. So, I hope you let me know how you handled your situation, and what the result was, or if you have a topic that you'd like me to cover.