When is an Individual Classroom Aide not an Aide?

In RDI, we strive to create opportunities for children with ASD to think and problem-solve in dynamic situations. We shift our communication to allow them opportunities to initiate and hold up their end of conversation. We help them to express their own ideas and participate fully in their social environment because we know that this is essential to their quality of life. But what happens when they go to school? What if your child is mainstreamed with an individual aide? An individual aide can sometimes prompt so much that their students become prompt dependent and miss opportunities to develop responsibility for their performance in the class. At worst, the aide can be a tangible symbol of the child’s disability, which if not handled skillfully by the teacher, can be stigmatizing for the child.  Have you experienced this with your child or witnessed it with others?

Recently I talked with a mother who thought of an inventive way to address this problem. She hired and personally trained an aide to shadow her child. She taught the aide to facilitate the “just right challenge”. The aide doesn’t overcompensate for the child, but also doesn’t allow the child to become frustrated and overwhelmed. What is more, the aide assists all the children in the class. This child doesn’t require an aide to be constantly at his side, so the aide circulates throughout the class. The mother has found that the peers in this class are more accepting and open to her son than the children had been in classes where the aide focused only on him.

This child goes to a private school that is open to new ideas.  I have not seen this type of aide in public schools. However, I think it is worth requesting. If you have a child in school, have you been happy with the situation you have for your child? If you feel inclined, tell us how this journey is going for you.

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